On Tuesday, tens of millions of Americans will brave long lines and various forms of precipitation to elect the public servants that best represent their democratic values. For better or for worse. Here's a quick guide to the candidates we can't believe might actually win—whether because of legal troubles, crushing hypocrisy, basic math, or some combination thereof. It is by no means comprehensive.
George P. Bush speaks at the 2000 Republican National Convention.
George Prescott Bush was campaigning before he knew why. In January, the Fort Worth resident, investor, politico, Navy reservist, and grandson of the 41st president and nephew of the 43rd, announced he was forming an exploratory committee to run for office in Texas. For which office? He didn't say. Weeks went by, and then finally, in the spring, he tweeted a housekeeping update: He would aim to become the state's next land commissioner.
But Bushes aren't groomed from birth to run the General Land Office, even though it is a deceptively powerful agency. Responsible for managing 13 million acres of public land and administering mineral leases, its cachet comes from the fact that almost all of Texas' public lands are controlled by the state, not the federal government. As such, it provides a natural platform for ambitious politicians. And Bush is ambitious. Already, he is being courted by 2016 presidential candidates, traveling out of state for big speeches, and holding court on the Sunday shows. In a state where Democrats haven't won a single statewide race since 1994, George P. is a safe bet on next Tuesday's Election Day.
Zach Dasher, a Republican businessman running for Congress in Louisiana's fifth district, has one major thing going for him: He's the nephew of Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan. And he appears to be squeezing everything he can out of the connection. In a new ad, Robertson, who was suspended by A&E last year over comments he made in a GQ interview on homosexuality and race, holds up a Bible and a rifle, as an acoustic version of "Amazing Grace" plays in the background. "Hey, Louisiana," Robertson says. "Bibles and guns brought us here. And Bibles and guns will keep us here. Zach Dasher believes in both. That's why I'm voting for him."
The ad's content isn't much of a surprise. Dasher has made his faith (and Duck Dynasty ties) a central part of his campaign, has said godlessness is driving America toward "tyranny and death," and worries that the term "YOLO" encourages atheism by discounting the idea of an afterlife. Robertson has also raised money for Dasher, at one fundraiser referring to the candidate as "my little nephew who came from the loins of my sister."
Ahead of a special election for the seat in 2013, Willie Robertson, Dasher's cousin, cut an ad for Rep. Vance McAllister, but the incumbent congressman has fallen out of favor with the family since he was caught on tape kissing a staffer.
South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland (right) at the Rosebud Indian Reservation
Earlier this year, Kevin Killer collected 1,193 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot to change the name of Shannon County, South Dakota. The county, which includes much of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is named for former Dakota Territory Supreme Court Chief Justice Peter Shannon, who was instrumental in the passage of the Dawes Act, which separated American Indians from their land. The proposed new name: Oglala Lakota County, after the tribe that calls Pine Ridge home.
The initiative needs a two-thirds majority to pass. In a county where 93 percent of voters are American Indians, Killer, a Democratic state representative, believes the name change could be a boon for turnout. That would be good news for Democrats in Washington, DC, who see South Dakota as the place where they could save their Senate majority. Rick Weiland, a progressive Democrat, is locked in a tight three-way race against former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds and former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler (who is running as an independent). Weiland is banking on Native Americans—and a string of new reforms that make it easier to vote on reservations—to push him across the finish line.
With 106 weeks until the next presidential election, speculating about a potential Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) candidacy is like going on a long car ride with a six-year-old. "Are you running?" No. "How about now?" No. "Now?" No. "Now?" No. "What about now?" No. "Are you running?" No. "Are you running?" [exasperated sigh] "Aha!"
But Warren does continue to do the things people who are considering a run for president tend to do—flying to Iowa to rally the troops on behalf of Rep. Bruce Braley, for instance, and going on tour to promote a campaign-style book. Her latest venture, a sit-down interview in the next issue of People magazine, isn't going to do much to quiet the speculation, even as she once more downplayed the prospect of a run:
[S]upporters are already lining up to back an "Elizabeth Warren for President" campaign in 2016. But is the freshman senator from Massachusetts herself on board with a run for the White House? Warren wrinkles her nose.
"I don't think so," she tells PEOPLE in an interview conducted at Warren's Cambridge, Massachusetts, home for this week's issue. "If there's any lesson I've learned in the last five years, it's don't be so sure about what lies ahead. There are amazing doors that could open."
She just doesn't see the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue being one of them. Not yet, anyway. "Right now," Warren says, "I'm focused on figuring out what else I can do from this spot" in the U.S. Senate.
"Amazing doors"; "I don't think"; "right now"—what does it all mean? Warren's not really saying anything we haven't heard from her before. But after then-Sen. Barack Obama's furious denials about running for president eight years ago, no one's ready to take "no" for an answer. At least not yet, anyway.