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.
As a Texas state senator, Dan Patrick has conducted himself in a manner consistent with the shock jock he once was. Patrick—who is now the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor—has railed against everything from separation of church and state to Mexican coyotes who supposedly speak Urdu. He's even advised his followers that God is speaking to them through Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.
A former sportscaster who once defended a football player who'd thrown a reporter through a door (Patrick believed it wasn't the journalist's job to do "negative reporting"), Patrick became a conservative talk radio host in the early 1990s—Houston's answer to Rush Limbaugh. In 2006, he parlayed his radio fame into a state Senate seat—and kept the talk show going. In office, he proposed paying women $500 to turn over newborn babies to the state (to reduce abortions), led the charge against creeping liberalism in state textbooks, and pushed wave after wave of new abortion restrictions. For his efforts, Texas Monthlynamed Patrick one of the worst legislators of 2013.
With a victory on November 4, Patrick, who is leading Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the polls, would find himself next in line for the governor's mansion of the nation's second-largest state. (Rick Perry, the current Republican governor, was previously lieutenant governor.) But even if Patrick advances no further, he'd be in a position to shape public policy—Texas' lieutenant governor is sometimes called the "most powerful office in Texas" because of the influence it has on both the legislative and executive branches.
Here are a few of Patrick's greatest hits:
On Islam: Patrick walked out of the Senate chamber in 2007 rather than listen to a Muslim deliver the opening prayer. "I think that it's important that we are tolerant as a people of all faiths, but that doesn't mean we have to endorse all faiths, and that was my decision," he told the Houston Chronicle. "I surely believe that everyone should have the right to speak, but I didn't want my attendance on the floor to appear that I was endorsing that."
Five years later, he did it again. "We are a nation that allows a Muslim to come in with a Koran but does not allow a Christian to take a Bible to school," Patrick explained, after walking out on another prayer, delivered this time by Imam Yusuf Kavacki. "We are a Judeo-Christian nation, primarily a Christian nation."
On the border: "While ISIS terrorists threaten to cross our border and kill Americans, my opponent falsely attacks me to hide her failed record on illegal immigration," he says in his first general-election campaign. Patrick's website, meanwhile, warns that Pakistanis are crossing the border as well, presumably to do bad things to Americans. "This is an Urdu dictionary found by border volunteers that was dropped by a human smuggler," Patrick writes beneath a photo of an Urdu-English dictionary. "It is concerning that Mexican coyotes are learning Urdu in order to smuggle illegal immigrants?" [sic]
On migrants: "They are bringing Third World diseases with them," he said in 2006, warning that immigrants could bring leprosy and polio to Texas. (This was news to Texas public health officials.) Patrick hired an undocumented worker when he ran a Houston sports bar, and when the worker revealed last spring that he had talked candidly with Patrick about his situation, the candidate insisted: "The worker says I was personally very kind to him and goes on to allege other preposterous events that are not true and for which he offers no evidence."
On his first book, actually titled The Second Most Important Book You Will Ever Read: "As the author, I am obviously biased," Patrick wrote in an Amazon review of his own book. But "since God inspired me to write this book," he added, "He automatically gets 5 stars and the CREDIT!'"
On squashing Wendy Davis' filibuster: Patrick told Mike Huckabee he had a Christian obligation to ignore Senate rules if the lives of fetuses were at risk. "I spoke to my colleagues and said, 'When Jesus criticized the Pharisees, he criticized them because their laws and their rules were more important than actually taking care of people,'" he said. "And in my view, stopping a debate to save thousands of lives, well, saving the thousands of lives is more important than our tradition of, well, you should never stop someone. I said, 'Well, are we gonna become the modern-day Pharisees as Republicans of the Senate and just let her talk this bill to death and thousands that could have been saved a horrendous death and also improving health care?'"
On Connie Chung's TV show, Eye to Eye: Patrick quipped in 1992 that the Asian American journalist's show should be called "Slanted Eye to Eye." Although Patrick's remarks sparked a local media firestorm, he did not change his ways. In 1999, a Houston Press profile noted that "Patrick lapsed into a faux-Chinese accent when he thought he heard a network correspondent call Clinton, in the midst of the Chinese-espionage scandal, 'President Crinton,'" and later joked that Clinton should get surgery to "make his eyes slanted."
On MTV: Patrick issued a call to arms against the cable channel in 2004, in an online bulletin:
STAND UP AND FIGHT BACK AGAINST MTV…LET'S TURN OFF MTV IN HOUSTON....JUST TAKE YOUR REMOTE AND GO TO DELETE CHANNELS....DELETE MTV AND CHANGE THE PASSWORD SO YOUR KIDS CAN'T WATCH....STAND UP TO YOUR KIDS...THEY WON'T BE HAPPY,BUT YOU MUST HOLD FIRM.... DO YOU WANT YOUR SONS AND ESPECIALLY YOUR DAUGHTERS EXPOSED TO THIS CONSTANT BARRAGE OF ATTACKS ON YOUR VALUES........THEN SCROLL BELOW AND CONTACT THE NFL AND CBS....ALSO CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSMAN AND SENATOR AND DEMAND THAT THE FCC GET TOUGH WITH THOSE WHO WANT TO COME INTO YOUR HOME AND DESTROY YOUR FAMILY VALUES
On creationism: "Our students…must really be confused," Patrick said at a GOP primary debate last spring. "They go to Sunday School on Sunday and then they go into school on Monday and we tell them they can't talk about God. I'm sick and tired of a minority in our country who want us to turn our back on God."
On Duck Dynasty: Patrick tried to raise money off of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson's comments about homosexuality in GQ,boasting that the bearded reality star was channeling another bearded visionary."This is an exciting time for Christians," he wrote on Facebook. "God is speaking to us from the most unlikely voice, Phil Robertson, about God's Word. God is using pop culture and a highly successful cable TV show to remind us about His teaching."
On his inspiration for this painting of Christ's face on the Statue of Liberty:
In teaching myself how to watercolor I was trying different styles. After a beach scene, I decided to try a Peter Max type of painting of the Statue of Liberty. I could not get the fact right and used water to remove the paint on her face. When it dried and I tried to clean it up suddently [sic] the face of Jesus appeared so clearly. It struck me that Jesus face on the Statue of Liberty sends an incredible message that the real light that our country has sent in the past, and needs to send once again today, is we are a nation that stands on His Word This was only my 4th try at a painting I had no idea of how to paint the face of Jesus, nor was I trying to do so.
On film: "A very popular movie starring Mel Gibson, Signs, has a theme dealing with the concept of coincidence," Patrick wrote in his book. "If you haven't seen it, it's a terrific flick (albeit a little scary). I recommend it."
If Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) do battle for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, they'll have to carefully manage their most popular yet embarrassing surrogates: their fathers. Here's a quick guide to the septuagenarian bomb-throwers.