More Than a Dozen Candidates Linked to #MeToo Allegations Will Appear on the November Ballot

Accusations range from sexual abuse of a minor to mishandling harassment complaints about top aides.

Mother Jones illustration; Getty

From Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Penn.), at least eight members of Congress have been removed from power since the #MeToo movement first swept the country last year. But even more politicians and aspiring politicos are facing allegations related to sexual misconduct scandals and have so far escaped serious political consequences. At least 13 people who are currently running for Congress, governor, or state attorney general have either been personally accused of sexual misconduct or harassment or of mishandling complaints of misconduct involving others. 

Here’s your guide to who is accused of what, the latest in their cases, and where they’ll appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Select a candidate below to learn more.

The Incumbents

Sherrod Brown

Sherrod Brown
Democrat, Senate, Ohio

Brown’s ex-wife, Larke Recchie, filed a restraining order against Brown in the 1980s while the two were in the middle of a contentious divorce. In related court records, Recchie alleged that Brown had “intimidated, pushed, shoved, and bullied” her. The two are now reportedly on good terms, and Recchie supports Brown politically. (Brown has denied becoming physically violent with her, and Recchie has said their conflict led “only to angry words.”)  

The episode has come up repeatedly in Brown’s political campaigns, including his 1992 race for Congress and 2012 Senate reelection campaign, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It surfaced again in September, when a super-PAC called “MeToo Ohio” published a website and video citing the divorce court records and comparing Brown to alleged abusers identified during the #MeToo movement. (Recchie responded by calling the super-PAC’s efforts “shameless” and “disgusting.”)

The campaign of Brown’s opponent, Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, denied involvement with the website. But Renacci, who is is currently polling 16 points behind Brown according to RealClearPolitics, has continued to double down on the attack. He recently claimed that multiple women have contacted him with assault allegations about Brown but did not provide any further information or evidence, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Brown’s campaign denied the claims and called Renacci’s attack “desperate.”

 

Tony Cárdenas
Democrat, California 29

In April 2018, a woman filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County court recounting an incident she said occurred in 2007, when she was a 16-year-old golf star. According to the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story, the lawsuit accused an unnamed public official of giving the girl a funny-tasting drink during a golf outing, then, when she later collapsed, molesting her before dropping her off at a hospital. 

Cárdenas identified himself as the lawsuit’s subject a few days after it was filed. “My client is sickened and distraught by these horrific allegations, which are 100%, categorically untrue,” his lawyer told the Washington Post in a statement. He has continued to fight the lawsuit, setting up a legal defense fund in August, according to Politico. And while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate the claims, no investigation has been announced.

Cárdenas still won two-thirds of the vote in his deep-blue district’s June 5 open primary. In the general election, he’ll face off against Republican challenger Benny Bernal, who finished with just 17 percent of the vote in the primary.

Jim Jordan
Republican, Ohio 4

This summer, at least eight former members of the Ohio State University wrestling team accused Jordan, an assistant coach from 1986 to 1994, of knowing about sexual abuse committed by the team doctor, Richard Strauss, and failing to stop it. According to the university, more than 100 ex-students—mostly male student-athletes—have reported sexual misconduct by Strauss, who is accused of unwanted touching during exams and in locker rooms from 1979 to 1997. Strauss died in 2005.

At least one wrestler claims he told Jordan directly about an incident with Strauss, according to NBC News and New York magazine. Others say the abuse was common knowledge at the time and that Jordan would have known, even if he wasn’t explicitly told. The university is currently facing two class-action suits from former wrestlers; one alleges that Jordan “was also aware of Strauss’ abuse but that he also concealed it.”

Jordan has consistently claimed he knew nothing about the abuse until it was publicly revealed this year, and he even fanned a conspiracy theory that the allegations against him were a form of retribution for the way he grilled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a June hearing, according to the New York Times. Ohio State’s investigation of the claims against Strauss, and what university employees knew about them, is ongoing. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has opposed calls for an ethics probe into the matter.

Jordan has largely escaped political ramifications so far. Just a few weeks after news of the allegations broke, in July, Jordan announced his bid to replace Ryan as speaker. Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent, Janet Garrett, has made women’s rights and safety a campaign issue, releasing a Handmaid’s Tale-inspired ad accusing Jordan of working to limit both and discussing her own experience of being abused by her husband. While there has been no polling of their race so far, FiveThirtyEight recently downgraded the district’s rating from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican.”

Brenda Lawrence
Democrat, Michigan 14

Last November, Politico reported that several ex-staffers claimed Lawrence had continued employing her chief of staff, Dwayne Duron Marshall, despite receiving multiple complaints about him, including allegations of inappropriate physical contact and comments. Multiple staffers said they told Lawrence about concerns with Marshall, and one former female aide claimed that after she complained to the congresswoman about Marshall, Lawrence had promised to “talk to him.” (Marshall denied the accusations and has called them “slanderous.”) 

Marshall remained chief of staff until the Politico story was published. Then, Lawrence—a former human resources manger who has pushed legislation to counter sexual harassment in Congress—placed him on leave. Marshall resigned soon after, though he maintains his innocence.

Lawrence continued to insist that whatever complaints were brought to her attention by aides did not constitute sexual harassment. “I have not, and I want to be very clear, have not ever, had an employee—former or present—talk to me about sexual harassment in my office,” she said. In March, she announced that an investigation inside her office turned up no allegations of sexual harassment, according to the Detroit News.

As the incumbent in a deep-blue district encompassing part of Detroit, Lawrence is expected to win reelection over Republican challenger Marc Herschfus.

Mark Meadows
Republican, North Carolina 11

According to 2016 documents from the Office of Congressional Ethics, in late 2014, a group of employees told a senior staffer in Meadows’ office they were uncomfortable with “inappropriate behavior” directed at them by Kenny West, Meadows’ chief of staff. The congressman told the employees he would address the issue, and he took action to limit West’s physical presence in his office; by April 2015, West was no longer chief of staff. But Meadows continued paying West a salary—more than $58,000 from April 1 to August 15, 2015—potentially violating House compensation rules, OCE concluded.

OCE recommended the House Ethics Committee begin its own the investigation, and the Daily Beast reported that the probe was still ongoing as of January. West denied that he sexually harassed anyone: “There may be differences of opinion, but there is nothing there,” he told a reporter.

Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, is running for reelection in a safe Republican district against Democratic challenger Phillip Price. FiveThirtyEight puts Meadows’ chances of winning at 99.7 percent.

Kim Reynolds
Republican, Governor, Iowa

Reynolds fired her longtime friend and ally, Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison, in March, and released a statement saying the move came immediately after her office was made aware of credible sexual harassment allegations against him, according to the Des Moines Register. But the Democratic minority leader of the state Senate immediately criticized Reynolds for keeping details about the allegations and how they were handled secret—and more questions soon arose about who knew about Jamison’s behavior and when. 

While Reynolds’ office initially did not release the March complaint she had received about Jamison and declined to conduct an investigation into his tenure, Reynolds later released the document, after the complainant gave her permission, and ordered an independent review of the Iowa Finance Authority. That investigation ended last month, finding that Jamison had groped a subordinate without consent and sexually harassed multiple employees. (He denied the claims to investigators, but they found him not credible.) The review also concluded there was no evidence Reynolds knew of Jamison’s behavior before March.

Reynolds is in a close race for reelection against her Democratic opponent, Fred Hubbell, who is currently leading in the polls by just a few points, according to RealClearPolitics. Hubbell has has loudly criticized Reynolds for not speaking out more against Republicans accused of sexual misconduct; meanwhile, the Democratic Governors’ Association has targeted Reynolds over her handling of the Jamison case.

If Reynolds loses in November, it will be the second time a misconduct scandal has worked in Hubbell’s favor this election cycle: One of his Democratic primary opponents, state Sen. Nate Boulton, dropped out after being accused of sexual misconduct.

Robert “Bobby” Scott
Democrat, Virginia 3

M. Reese Everson, a former Congressional Black Caucus Foundation fellow, held a press conference last December in which she alleged Scott had touched her inappropriately and propositioned her in 2013. “I was retaliated against, I was wrongfully terminated, and I was blackballed,” Everson said. She had previously spoken and published a book about facing sexual harassment but had not named the member of Congress who allegedly targeted her, according to USA Today.

Scott immediately put out a statement saying Everson’s claim was false, and he called out the lawyer representing her as a “Republican operative known for dabbling in outlandish conspiracy theories.”

Several media accounts have cast doubt on Everson’s credibility, and the Richmond Free Press reported that she left Scott’s office voluntarily and was only let go by the CBC Foundation a few months later, while she was working in another position. She later filed a discrimination complaint with the Washington, DC, Office of Human Rights, claiming she had faced verbal but not physical harassment. And while Everson’s lawyer called on the Ethics Committee to look into her claims, no investigation has been announced. 

Scott is running unopposed.

The Challengers

Phil Bredesen
Democrat, Senate, Tennessee

During Bredesen’s tenure as governor of Tennessee between 2003 and 2011, the state government investigated at least 30 sexual harassment allegations, according to a PolitiFact review. In two of those cases—one involving his top adviser, Mack Cooper, and another unsubstantiated claim involving the state’s prison chief, Quenton White—notes from the state’s investigation were destroyed. Bredesen learned of the shredding when he demoted Cooper in 2005, and he later issued a memo requiring the preservation of documents, the AP reported at the time. 

Bredesen’s opponent for retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s seat, Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, raised the issue during a September debate, claiming what his administration “chose to do was to shred some of the documents so that women’s voices would never be heard,” according to PolitiFactwhich rated the claim as “half true.” (According to the Washington Examiner, Bredesen replied by saying that shredding some documents was necessary to protect the privacy of victims.) The National Republican Senatorial Committee promptly seized on the story, releasing a video accusing Bredesen of “shielding” top aides.

Democrats have been treating the race as a key opportunity to flip a Senate seat in their quest to build a majority. Blackburn is currently polling six and a half points ahead of Bredesen on average, according to RealClearPolitics

Gil Cisneros
Democrat, California 39

In May, California Democrat Melissa Fazli, then a candidate for State Assembly, published a press release detailing encounters with Cisneros, including two incidents she interpreted as a quid pro quo offer: have sex with him or spy on one of his political opponents in exchange for a $4,400 donation to her campaign. Fazli’s allegation got little attention until it was picked up for attack ads against Cisneros by a Republican PAC in late summer. 

But by early October, Fazli had recanted her claims. She and Cisneros met and discussed the issue, they told PolitiFact, and both had concluded that it was all a misunderstanding. “I don’t believe that Gil sexually harassed me,” Fazli said.

“We sat down and heard each other, found a clear case of misunderstanding, and are both ready to move forward,” Cisneros added.

RealClearPolitics rates Cisneros’ race as a “toss-up.” Recent polls have put him up by just one point over his opponent, Republican Young Kim. The district—one of 10 key California battlegrounds for Democrats—is currently represented by 13-term Republican Rep. Ed Royce, who announced his retirement in January. 

Keith Ellison
Democrat, Attorney General, Minnesota

On August 11, 2018, the son of Ellison’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan, published a Facebook post saying he had found a video of Ellison dragging Monahan off a bed by her feet and screaming at her, along with records of messages indicating emotional abuse, on his mother’s computer. Monahan soon publicly confirmed her son’s claims, writing on Twitter, “@keithellison, you know you did that to me.” She released a lengthy statement describing the psychological ramifications of the abuse, as well as a medical record supporting her claim.

Ellison, currently a congressman, denies the allegations and last month asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate them. A separate investigation by the state Democratic party was “unable to substantiate” the physical abuse claims, according to chairman Ken Martin. But it’s not the first time Ellison has faced claims of misconduct. In 2006, a woman named Amy Louise Alexander alleged that she had an affair with Ellison during which he verbally abused her and physically hurt her during an argument. (Ellison denied having a relationship with her and took out a restraining order against her, claiming she was threatening to “destroy” him, according to the Star Tribune.)

Ellison’s attorney general bid, in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican to the job since 1966, was expected to be a cakewalk, but Monahan’s allegations have left him in a dead heat with a little-known Republican lawyer named Doug Wardlow. Wardlow, for his part, has used Monahan’s story to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy on sexual misconduct and criticized the Minnesota Democrats’ investigation as inherently biased toward its own candidate. Monahan is now represented by Wardlow’s longtime friend and former boss, the Intercept reported.

Marty Nothstein
Republican, Pennsylvania 7

Nothstein, a former Olympic gold medalist in track cycling and executive director of a cycling center outside Allentown, Pennsylvania, was suspended earlier this year while the US Center for SafeSport, an organization related to the national Olympic committee, investigated a nearly two-decade-old sexual misconduct allegation against him. No details about the allegation have been made public. Nothstein, who denies engaging in any misconduct, announced in late August that the investigation had been closed—with, his lawyer noted in a statement to Mother Jones, SafeSport “taking no action and finding no support.” 

In October, Nothstein sued the Allentown Morning Call, which reported on the allegation; the newspaper stands by its reporting. His Democratic opponent, attorney Susan Wild, had an eight-point lead in a late-September New York Times poll, and the recently redrawn district is expected to lean Democratic.

Archie Parnell
Democrat, South Carolina 5

One night in October 1973, Kathleen Parnell was staying at a friend’s apartment with the doors locked for protection from her then-husband. But Archie Parnell broke into the apartment and beat her twice that night; later, she obtained a restraining order, and a divorce was finalized between the two soon afterward. After the Post and Courier uncovered court documents revealing the episode in May, Parnell admitted to the abuse in a statement: “Forty five years ago, while still a college student, I did something that I have regretted every single day since,” he said. “In response to actions I feel unnecessary to specify, I lashed out and became violent with other people, including my former wife, which led to a divorce and monumental change in my life. These actions were inexcusable, wrong and downright embarrassing.”

Last year, Parnell lost a special election for the seat—which was previously held by Mick Mulvaney before he entered the Trump administration—by just three points to Republican Ralph Norman. His performance in the deep-red district made Democrats consider him a contender to flip the House seat. (The allegations were not publicly known at the time of the special election.) After his history of domestic violence was made public, he lost the support of the Democratic Party, but he still won his June primary with 60 percent of the vote.

After the primary, Norman released a statement saying he would pray for Parnell and his family and criticizing him for continuing with his campaign. “For a candidate with domestic violence in his past, the time to humble himself and assert that he’s a better person today is before his campaign even gets off the ground,” Norman said.

FiveThirtyEight currently rates Parnell’s chances as one in 50.

Steve Von Loor
Republican, North Carolina 4

The Republican running a long-shot campaign against Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) allegedly has a history of domestic violence against his ex-wife, according to claims made in a North Carolina court this summer.

As part of a legal battle between Von Loor and Adrian Robey, the spouse of Von Loor’s ex-wife, Maria Robey, Adrian attempted to introduce evidence about a 2010 protective order Maria sought against Von Loor while the two were still married. Maria had alleged that Von Loor threw “a bottle of wine at her house, threatened to break her car windows, and pushed her so hard that a friend called police,” according to a July 10 article in the News Observer.

Two of Von Loor’s campaign staffers resigned soon after the allegations came to light. The congressional hopeful has little chance of unseating Price, a 15-term congressman representing a gerrymandered Democratic district that encompasses parts of Durham, Orange, and Wake counties.

Photo credits: Brown, Bredesen, Cardenas, Jordan, Lawrence, Meadows, Reynolds, Scott: Wikipedia; Cisneros: Cisneros for Congress; Nothstein: Marty for Congress; Parnell: Sean Rayford/Getty Images