In the run-up to this fall's rematch against Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.), Republican Art Robinson is making an unusual ask.
"My name is Art Robinson," read one of the mailers he sent to 500,000 Oregon residents in March. "I am a scientist who has lived and worked in Josephine County for 34 years. My colleagues and I are developing improved methods for the measurement of human health. Please consider giving us a sample of your urine."
Robinson is a scientist, and that's part of the problem. For the last three decades, when he's not running for office, the Caltech-educated chemist has run a research nonprofit out of a family compound in the mountain town of Cave Junction, near the California border. In a monthly newsletter called Access to Energy, Robinson has used his academic credentials to float theories on everything from AIDS to public schooling to climate change (which he believes is a myth). In perhaps his most famous missive, Robinson once proposed using airplanes to disperse radioactive waste on Oregon homes, in the hopes of building up resistance to degenerative illnesses.
"All we need do with nuclear waste is dilute it to a low radiation level and sprinkle it over the ocean—or even over America after hormesis is better understood and verified with respect to more diseases," Robinson wrote in 1997. He added, "If we could use it to enhance our own drinking water here in Oregon, where background radiation is low, it would hormetically enhance our resistance to degenerative diseases. Alas, this would be against the law." (Robinson has since clarified that such proposals would be politically untenable.)
In another essay, he called public education "the most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism in the United States," leaving people "so mentally handicapped that they cannot be responsible custodians of the energy technology base or other advanced accomplishments of our civilization."
Robinson theorized that the government had overhyped the AIDS epidemic in order to force social engineering experiments on those aforementioned public school students. The truth, he contended, was far more complex:
There is a possibility that the entire 'war' on HIV and AIDS is in error. U.S. government AIDS programs are now receiving $6 billion per year and are based entirely upon the hypothesis that HIV virus causes AIDS. Yet, the articles referenced above and numerous additional publications by scientists who have become involved in this controversy state that: attempts to cause AIDS experimentally with HIV have completely failed; thousands of AIDS victims are HIV-free; and HIV shows none of the classical characteristics of a disease-producing organism. Moreover, AIDS is not a unique disease—it is an increased susceptibility to many ordinary diseases presumably as a result of depressed immune response. This depressed immunity can result from many other factors including those especially prevalent in the AIDS afflicted population—drug abuse and unhygienic exposure to very large numbers of different disease vectors. Moreover, large numbers of HIV carriers who are symptom-free are being treated by powerful life-threatening drugs that kill people in ways very similar to AIDS.
Those writings have become an albatross in his repeated challenges to DeFazio, who has publicized Robinson's work. Robinson lost by 10 points in 2010, and then by 20 two years later in a district that had become more Democratic after redistricting. Last year, he entered the GOP primary yet again (on a whim one day while driving past the clerk's office), and won the nomination by default in May when no other candidates materialized. Adding to the uphill odds is the fact that Robinson now has a second job: Since last August, he's served as the chair of the Oregon Republican Party.
As for the urine samples, Robinson told the Roseburg (Ore.) News-Review he received 1,000 in response, which will go toward a study on aging. His campaign might not be worth a bucket of warm piss. But at least he'll have plenty of it to fall back on.
Davis pleaded guilty to reduced charges and ended up moving to Mississippi. Officer Tihen, for her part, is no longer with the Ferguson Police Department. In 2012, after four years on the force, she won election to the city council, becoming one of the six-person body's five white members. (The sixth is Latino.) Two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are black, but the city holds elections in the spring, making for low turnout—in April 2012, when Tihen was elected, less than 9 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. (The Ferguson police force is even less representative of the city’s African American majority: Just 4 percent of its members are black.) Last week, after police cracked down on residents protesting the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen, Tihen and the rest of the city council issued a statement calling on demonstrations to cease at dusk.
They did it again. On Thursday, Tennessee Democrats picked a statewide candidate with zero political experience. His campaign platform is based on sending incumbent Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to the electric chair. Charlie Brown, a retired engineer from Oakdale whose name is misspelled on his own Facebook page, may owe his victory in the gubernatorial primary to appearing as the first name on the ballot. But he gives full credit to God. "I got down on my knees and prayed about it," he told Mother Jones, when asked about his campaign strategy. "That hit you pretty hard, huh? That took you for a loop, huh?"
In 2012, anti-gay activist Mark Clayton, who also had no political track record won the nod to take on GOP Sen. Bob Corker. His name was also the first name listed on the ballot. Clayton initially filed to run against Haslam this year but was rejected by the state party. The state party did not, however, unite behind a more experienced candidate to challenge the popular Haslam.
The 72-year-old Brown did not raise money or campaign actively for the seat. Instead, he sent two letters to the editor to every major newspaper in the state, outlining his plans for Tennessee, which included bringing back teacher tenure, restoring benefits for civil servants, spending his gubernatorial salary on large deer for hunters, and raising speed limits on the interstate highways to 80 mph "because everyone does anyway." (Brown says he has been pulled over for speeding, but "not lately.") "Let me give you something: My main interest is to put the Bible back in school," he said on Friday. "You can write that down."
"I'd still like to put his butt in that electric chair and turn it on about half throttle and let him smell a little bit," Brown said of Haslam. "You can print that if you want to."
Shortly before the election, he says a higher power intervened on his behalf. "I was sitting on the interstate waiting on a guy," he said, "and something hit me just like that, and it said to get down on your knees to pray. I got down right there on the interstate. There's a wide place, where there's a pullout. There wasn't anybody there. And I got down and asked the Lord to get me through this thing and he did. Now listen, I'm not no preacher, I'm just a Christian. I'm just a sinner saved by grace. I'm just like everybody else."
Brown said he would update his Facebook after he got off the phone (it has since been taken down), and plans to campaign more actively in the fall, but downplays the uphill challenge he faces.
"I'm gonna campaign big time!" Brown said. "They said I was unknown—I've been in the newspaper for years under Peanuts!"
Voters in Tennessee’s fourth congressional district sent a clear message to future Republican candidates on Thursday: If you pressure your mistress to get an abortion, you might (eventually) lose your job for it you can get away with basically anything.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who pressured a woman—one of two patients he admitted having affairs with—to get an abortion in the 1990s, appears to have narrowly avoided becoming the fourth Republican incumbent to lose a primary this year. With 100 percent of precincts reporting on Thursday, he led state Sen. Jim Tracy by 35 votes—34,787 to 34,752. (The results are not official and a recount is possible, although the state has no law mandating one in such circumstances.) The abortion revelation emerged after DesJarlais' 2012 primary, when the only thing standing between him and reelection in the deeply Republican district was a token Democratic candidate in the general election.
But after his reelection, the dominoes continued to fall. Divorce transcripts released two weeks after the race revealed that he and his first wife had decided to abort two pregnancies. That proved a problem for the congressman, who is adamantly pro-life: Per his website, "Congressman DesJarlais believes that all life should be cherished and protected. He has received a 100% score by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the oldest and the largest national pro-life organization in the United States."
This year, the congressman faced a serious challenge from Tracy, who entered the race almost immediately after DesJarlais returned to Washington. As Jason Linkins notes, Tracy didn't make DesJarlais's past a focal point until July, although when he did, he went all in. Per the Chattanooga Times Free-Press:
The front of the mailer depicts wooden toy letter blocks spelling "baby," and goes on to say, "Abortions. Affairs. Abuse of Power. We can't trust DesJarlais to Fight for Our Values."
DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson called the piece "just the sort of disgusting gutter politics we'd expected from [U.S. House Democratic leader] Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Washington."
Having an affair with your patient is pretty creepy, and attempting to deny reproductive rights to women after privately advocating for women to get abortions is kind of a weird thing to put on your resumé. On the other hand, DesJarlais did produce this ad once, in which two good ol' boys play checkers while talking about how awesome he is:
Republicans' path to taking over the Senate just got a little bit easier. Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) announced on Thursday he would end his Senate campaign after the New York Timesreported last month that he had plagiarized portions of his 2007 Army War College thesis. Walsh, a former lieutenant governor and adjutant general of the state national guard, was appointed to the seat vacated by Ambassador to China Max Baucus but struggled to generate much enthusiasm among voters. Montana Democrats have until August 20 to find a new nominee. But whoever wins the Democratic nod will have a tough row to hoe against GOP Rep. (and creationism advocate) Steve Daines, who held a 16-point lead in a CBS/New York Times poll taken lost month.