7 Bizarro Congressional Races You Should Know About Before Election Day

J. Scott Applewhite
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The presidential election takes the prize for the strangest thing happening on the ballot this cycle, but below the radar are don’t-miss House races across the country.

There’s a Republican congressman running in a competitive race without a campaign manager, former GOP Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa is sending out mailers touting legislation he worked on with President Barack Obama and Republican turned independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist is actually running in a newly drawn district against a Republican congressman who literally brought live mosquitos to the House floor this year to highlight Zika.

Flipping the House is a tall, tall order for Democrats this cycle, even as the party has tried to capitalize on Trump’s propensity for gaffes and bombastic statements.

But these down ballot races are worth watching.

Charlie Crist Is BACK


Associated Press/ Charlie Crist has the slight advantage in a newly drawn Florida district.

Former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (now a Democrat) is challenging incumbent Rep. David Jolly (in Florida’s 13th, which has grown by about 20,000 more Democratic voters since a court-ordered redistricting last year. The Tampa Bay Times dubbed it “the not-so-nice congressional race.” And, it’s been pretty nasty. Democrats have tried to portray Jolly as a henchman of Donald Trump’s even though Jolly said he wouldn’t vote for Trump (and has said he’s never met him.)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee went as far as to photoshop an ad superimposing Jolly and Trump in photographs standing side by side.

Meanwhile, Jolly has had to run the race mostly on his own after irritating Republican leaders by participating in a 60 Minutes investigation into congressional fundraising tactics. While Jolly’s race is one of the most competitive in the country, he’s had no help to date from the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the Tampa Bay Times, after sponsoring legislation that would have barred lawmakers from directly soliciting donations.

Issa Cozies Up To Obama

It’s not everyday you see a former GOP Oversight Committee chairman who investigated the Obama administration on everything from Solyndra to Benghazi sending out mailers to constituents touting his work with President Obama. Yet, that’s exactly what happened in California’s 49th where Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent out a mailer of Obama in the Oval Office with the words: “I am very pleased President Obama has signed into law the Survivor Bill of Rights, legislation I co-sponsored to protect the victims of sexual assault.”

Issa finds himself in an increasingly competitive race against Democrat Doug Applegate. But Obama has also waded into the race, slamming Issa for his political opportunism at a fundraiser for Applegate earlier this month.

“This is now a guy who because Trump’s poll numbers are bad has sent of brochures with my picture on them touting his cooperation on issues with me,” the president said. “That is the definition of chutzpah. Here’s a guy who called my administration perhaps the most corrupt in history.”

Liz Cheney Finds Her Way To Congress


Associated Press/Liz Cheney is expected to replace retiring Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

After dropping out of the Republican Wyoming Senate primary in 2014, Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz Cheney is all but guaranteed to bring the family name back to Washington as she runs to represent Wyoming in Congress. Cheney’s name in itself paired with her tough conservative talk and her uncompromising support of Republican nominee Donald Trump could make her an instant star on Capitol Hill for a Republican Party that has long been looking for women leaders in the House. Cheney’s father was first elected to the same seat nearly 40 years ago.

Oath Keepers, Gay Bashing And Scott Garrett’s Super Close Race


Associated Press/ Scott Garrett tries to survive the toughest election he’s faced yet.

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), the deeply religious and powerful Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee chairman, is in for the race of his life after coming under fire for withholding money to the National Republican Congressional Committee because the group has supported gay candidates. In the subsequent months, Garrett himself has struggled to raise money from Wall Street, which has largely cut him off. Instead, he’s relied on personal donors like Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, according to Bloomberg.

Now as he races to defend his seat in New Jersey’s Fifth District against former White House speechwriter Josh Gottheimer, Garrett has found himself in trouble again for appearing at a breakfast event with a New Jersey Oath Keeper leader. According to a report from Bloomberg on the event, the New Jersey Homeland Security office considers the Oath Keepers a “domestic terrorist threat.”

Border Fences, RICO Funds, A Sordid Love Affair And Paul Babeu


Associated Press/ Paul Babeu is running to replace Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu’s own sisters told the public not to vote for him, but the tough-on-immigration Republican is running in one of the most competitive districts in the country in a race that Republicans hope they can pick up. Babeu is running to replace Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) in Arizona’s First District against former police officer Tom O’Halleran, a Republican-turned-Democrat.

While Babeu won his re-election for sheriff decisively in 2012, he has a lot of controversies to weather. Babeu became a national figure in 2010 after he appeared with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in an ad touting border security, but he has ties to a boarding school in Massachusetts that is now closed after an investigation into its harsh disciplinary practices and he was caught on tape discussing them. He also dropped out of a race for Congress in 2012 after an ex-lover Jose Orozco, who happened to be an undocumented Mexican immigrant, came forward outing Babeu as gay. Orozco claimed that Babeu’s lawyer had threatened him with deportation if he came forward. (The attorney general cleared Babeu of abuse of power in the case.)

Babeu was also scrutinized earlier this year for whether he spent RICO funds on campaign related spending.

Don Young Fights To Keep Representing Alaska


Associated Press/ Rep. Don Young is racing to keep a seat he’s had for more than four decades.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is facing a legit challenger in the race to defend the congressional seat he’s held since 1973. Young, known for his offensive remarks, brash personality and most recently for seeming to accuse high schoolers of not being there enough for a classmate who committeed suicide, is facing off against Steve Lindbeck.

Over the years Young has faced national ire for grabbing a staffer, calling Hispanics “webacks,” and was found to have violated House Ethics Rules for using campaign dollars to pay for his own personal hunting trips.

Despite all that, Lindbeck is still 15 points behind, according to the latest Alaska Dispatch poll.

A Congressman Just Ignores He Could Be Losing


Associated Press/ Rep. John Mica isn’t that concerned that he could be close to losing.

Rep. John Mica (R-FL) is running in a close race in Florida’s newest congressional district against Stephanie Murphy, a Vietnamese immigrant whose family came to the U.S. when she was just an infant.

Yet, according to a report in Politico, Mica doesn’t have a campaign manager, has a part-time communications director who is a Democrat and is literally laughing about his paltry campaign operation. Politico reported that Democrats have spent $3 million trying to unseat him in a newly drawn district and it may just work.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Fox is a reporter at Talking Points Memo.

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