North Carolina Senate candidate Thom Tillis with state Rep. Ruth Samuelson.
In 1898, furious that a mixed-race coalition had swept the city's municipal elections, white supremacists burned down a black-owned newspaper in Wilmington, North Carolina; overthrew the local government; and killed at least 25 black residents in a week of rioting. It was one of the worst single incidents of racially motivated violence in American history. But in 2007, when a nonpartisan commission recommended that the state legislature pass a resolution formally apologizing for the massacre, Republican Senate nominee Thom Tillis, then a first-term state representative, rose to block it.
"It is time to move on," he wrote in a message to constituents. "In supporting the apology for slavery, most members felt it was an opportunity to recognize a past wrong and move on to pressing matters facing our State. HB 751 and others in the pipeline are redundant and they are consuming time and attention that should be dedicated to addressing education, transportation, and immigration problems plaguing this State."
But at the time, Tillis—who showed up in Wilmington on Tuesday with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in tow—offered another explanation for opposing the measure: Not all whites had participated in the riots. So Tillis pushed for an amendment introduced by a fellow state representative that would have added language to the bill commemorating the heroic white Republican lawmakers who had opposed the violence. "The proposed amendment would have acknowledged the historical fact that the white Republican government joined with black citizens to oppose the rioters," he argued. The amendment failed, and Tillis ended up voting no on the final version.
Although North Carolina has been targeted by the GOP as a top pickup opportunity, Tillis has struggled to gain traction—in part because of his leadership role in the unpopular state legislature. In the most recent poll, he trailed Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent, by nine points.
A jury found former Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell guilty on 11 counts of corruption on Thursday, ending a bizarre trial that featured bad shrimp, a broken marriage, and non-FDA approved dietary supplements. McDonnell's wife, Maureen, was found guilty on eight charges.
The charges stemmed from the couple's relationship with Johnnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific, Inc., a pharmaceutical company. Williams, dubbed the "tic-tac man" by the governor's staff, was pushing two new drugs, Antabloc and CigRx, and needed help getting the pills into doctors' offices. He lavished gifts on the McDonnells, paying for their daughter's wedding, taking Maureen on shopping sprees, and letting the couple borrow his "James Bond car"—an Aston Martin—for vacations. At one point, he bid against himself at a charity auction to win a free weekend with Maureen. In turn, the McDonnells became Star Scientific boosters. Maureen went so far as to pitch Antabloc to prospective first lady Ann Romney, telling her it could help her MS.
What's there to say about the trial? BuzzFeed's Katherine Miller has the fullest summation of what happened, but let's just call it a mess, a soap opera, the world's worst "Modern Love" column in legalese. It was also a useful corrective to the facade politicians sometimes present when they trot their families in front of the cameras before trying to legislate yours. McDonnell, whose master's thesis at Pat Robertson's Regent University made the case for covenant marriage and subservient roles for wives, built his defense on the theory that his own union was too much of a failure for him and his wife to mount a conspiracy. According to the governor, his wife was a paranoid loon who had a crush on the businessman who bought her nice dresses.
At one point, a former aide to Maureen McDonnell—who called the former first lady a "nutbag"—testified that she had received a text message from the governor's wife alleging that the couple's chef was attempting to ruin Christmas by serving them bad shrimp. Fed up with the McDonnells (who had accused him of stealing food), the chef, Todd Schneider, handed a trove of documents to federal investigators in 2012 that led to the probe. The lesson, as always, is to be nice to the people who prepare your food.
ONE NIGHT LAST SEPTEMBER, a 46-year-old Veterans Administration research manager named Robert Small showed up at a public meeting with state education officials in Towson*, a Maryland suburb, with a pen, a notebook, and an ax to grind. Small had been doing some homework on the main topic of the event, a set of math and language arts standards called Common Core that had recently been introduced in schools across the country, including his kids'. Fresh from work in a crisp, checkered shirt, he stood up in an overflow crowd and channeled his inner Henry V. "I want to know how many parents here are aware that the goal of the Common Core standards isn't to prepare our children for world-class universities—it's to prepare them for community college!" An off-duty police officer approached, and Small began to shout. "You're sitting here like cattle!" Out came the handcuffs. "Hey, is this America?" Small bellowed, as he jostled with the officer. "Parents, you need to question these people! Do the research!"
The police department later dropped the charge of second-degree assault of a police officer; Small, for his part, said he held no grudge against the cops. But a video of the incident, which racked up more than a million views on YouTube, set off a firestorm of right-wing outrage. On his radio show, Glenn Beck confessed he couldn't sleep after watching the clip. "This is the way it used to happen in Mother Russia, not America. It's Dictatorship 101."
"Nothing like starting off the morning with a triathlon," tweeted former Sen. Scott Brown on August 10th.
The Massachusetts transplant is gearing up for his campaign against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) this fall by literally running for office. He's also biking. And swimming. And hiking. And taking jump shots. If it's a weekend, you can expect to find the Republican candidate tweeting a photo of his latest feat of strength. Things might not work out for Brown in November, but Brown will almost certainly work out.
Could the 2012 killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin prove a deciding factor in an Arizona Democratic congressional primary? Former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox certainly hopes so. Seeking to gain an edge over her rival, ex-state Rep. Ruben Gallego, in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's primary, Wilcox's campaign has invoked Martin's shooting and her opponent's past support for a controversial Stand Your Ground law.
"America doesn't need more Trayvon Martin tragedies," read a mailer distributed by Wilcox's campaign earlier this month that blasted Gallego for voting "for an NRA-backed 'Stand Your Ground' law that made it easier to shoot someone and claim self-defense." The mailer went on to cite Gallego's B+ rating from the National Rifle Association, while asking voters to remember "tragedies like Newtown, CT" and "the theater in Aurora, CO." (Those shootings did not involve Stand Your Ground.)
Wilcox, who was shot in the hip in 1997 by an angry constituent, has kept gun control front and center during the campaign, although not always successfully. She brought up Gallego's vote at a recent debate; in June, her husband, Earl, confronted Gallego at a gun control rally, alleging that he was a "traitor to the cause." Gallego, a former NRA member, has said he brought a handgun to work at the state capitol after receiving threats, but supports a ban on assault rifles and the county buyback program Wilcox helped to start.