With just over ten weeks until the 2018 elections, a series of legal and ethical questions are dogging a small group of lawmakers in both parties in the Congress, ranging from outright criminal indictments to accusations of domestic abuse, past legal troubles, and some election dirty tricks that may have crossed the line into illegal election activity.
Here’s a look at some of the lawmakers who are dealing with more than just the regular question of whether they can get their supporters out to vote in November:
1. Rep. Chris Collins R-NY. Indicted in early August on charges of insider trading and false statements, Collins suspended his campaign for re-election – but his name may remain on the ballot in New York’s 27th District. One reason is the complex nature of the election laws in the Empire State. As the Buffalo News reported earlier this week, there are three ways GOP leaders could get Collins off the ballot: “He can run for another office, he can move to another state, or he can die.” But the problem is that any move to replace his name is likely to be met by a lawsuit from Democrats, and even opposition from local Republicans. So, it’s still possible that Collins will be on the ballot come November. Could he still win? Absolutely. It happened in 2014 in New York when Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) won while under indictment. Grimm later resigned and went to prison.
2. Rep. Duncan Hunter R-CA. Indicted just this week along with his wife for allegedly misusing over $250,000 in campaign funds, Hunter has given no hint of giving up his re-election bid, as he has publicly blamed his wife for his legal problems – the Hunters even have different lawyers – and the California Republican has charged that Democrats in the Trump Justice Department are engaged in a political prosecution against him. California’s 50th Congressional District is a solid Republican stronghold, so one can’t rule out the possibility that Hunter could get re-elected, even with his legal troubles. But the details of the indictment are sure to be used against him in the run to November.
3. Rep. Keith Ellison D-MN. While Ellison is not running for re-election to the Congress, he will be the Democratic Party’s candidate for Attorney General in the state of Minnesota. But questions have been raised recently by a woman who dated Ellison, as she claimed the Minnesota Democrat physically assaulted her, once yanking her off a bed by her ankle. Ellison has denied the allegation, and so far, state and national Democratic Party officials have stood by Ellison. The woman, Karen Monahan, has gone on TV to state her case, and claims there is even video evidence of the altercation – but that she won’t release it. For now, it’s a he-said-she-said story, but with possible details and evidence that could still explode before Election Day.
4. Sen. Bob Menendez D-NJ. While the New Jersey Democrat survived a federal corruption trial because of a hung jury on a 14-count indictment, the ethics issues for Menendez haven’t gone away, as Republican candidate Bob Hugin tries to unseat the veteran Democratic Senator. Recent polls have given Democrats a bit of heartburn in the Garden State, where the GOP is on the defensive in almost every key race except this one for U.S. Senate. “They are troubled by the ethics cloud hanging over him,” said polling analyst Mary Snow of voters in New Jersey. A new poll from Snow’s Quinnipiac University had only bad news for Menendez, showing him ahead by just six points, down from a 17 point lead in March. Menendez has gone on the offensive against Hugin, attacking his leadership of the drug company Celgene. But it may be that Democrats will be playing defense in this race more than they wanted to in 2018 because of the legal and ethical troubles of Menendez.
5. Rep. Scott Taylor R-VA. This story percolating in recent weeks in Virginia might be a bit confusing at first, but keep reading. Republican Scott Taylor is running for re-election in Virginia’s 2nd District, against Democrat Elaine Luria. But there is also an Independent candidate, Shaun Brown, who made it on the ballot – in part because of ballot signatures collected by staffers of Congressman Taylor. While that might sound like simple election dirty tricks – there’s more to the story – as news organizations keep ferreting out examples of fake and forged signatures, as well as the names and signatures of dead people who were supposedly signed up by staffers of Rep. Taylor. While the GOP Congressman has denied wrongdoing – these signature questions keep stacking up. A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into the matter, and a separate court hearing is set for next week on efforts by Democrats to get Brown off the ballot. This story bears watching, not only on the third candidate angle, but whether Taylor and his campaign staffers have any legal issues to face as well.