Golden Dukes: It’s Time To Cheers 2022’s Forgotten Heroes

Golden Dukes 2022. TPM illustration.
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As the Oscars holds its in memoriam each year, so too will the Golden Dukes this year, complete with a bit of dark spin. We would never dance on anyone’s actual graves (probably), but their political graves are fair game.

2022 gifted us a lot of losers who we can now celebrate as winners — in their unscrupulous, unhinged, and ultimately unelectable glory. Introducing the Golden Dukes Forgotten Heroes, an in memoriam to all of our favorite scoundrels who never quite made it to elected office. The 2022 midterms, in all its Big Lie-fueled insanity, gifted us hundreds of options for whacky candidates we will miss the most. Some may run for office again. But in our hearts they’ll always be losers.

Readers, you outdid yourselves with nominations in this category. Staff too. It is the nostalgic time of year, after all. I’ve chosen the following nominees for your voting enjoyment. It’s your last chance to weigh in! We’ll be announcing the Golden Duke winners for each category later this week. If you missed out on voting for any of the other categories (how dare you), head here. And if you need some convincing for today’s category, I’ve included some TPM staff and reader nomination pitches below.

Vote here ⬇️⬇️⬇️ and happy Duke-ing!

Don Bolduc

Don Bolduc was, in my opinion, the funniest character to emerge from the extremely dense field of bizarre candidates for federal office in 2022. A dead ringer for Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove — both in appearance and affect — Bolduc came hot out of the gate, accusing New Hampshire governor and fellow Republican Chris Sununu of being a secret communist. Bolduc was one of more than 100 former military officials to sign a letter organized by Mike Flynn declaring the 2020 election fraudulent based on conspiracy theories, and election denial become Bolduc’s calling card in the primary.

But in the general, he wasn’t sure how much to play his extremism down. He pivoted away from election denial, back toward it, and away again before deciding it was better just not to talk about whether the 2020 election was stolen. Trump wasn’t having it: “He was a strong and proud ‘Election Denier,’ a big reason that he won the Nomination, but he then disavowed,” Trump wrote days before the midterms, concluding that, “nonetheless,” he endorsed Bolduc. It’s not clear whether Bolduc has a political future or will join our ranks of shameless yet largely forgotten heroes. But I, for one, will always remember the way he distinguished himself over the last few years.

— Nominated by: John Light, TPM’s managing editor

Jim Lamon

Arizona’s Jim Lamon sold his soul to Donald Trump and was roadkill by the August primary: he was a fake elector for Trump, and bankrolled the cyber ninjas’ audit of the 2020 vote. But Trump didn’t endorse him, and Lamon lost. He was so crazy he ran an ad during the Super Bowl in which he shot a gun at Mark Kelly, whose wife Gabby Giffords survived an assassination attempt. Even his less controversial TV ads made you feel like you were getting yelled at by Foghorn Leghorn.

— Nominated by: TPM reader

The TV Announcers-Turned-Candidates: Kari Lake, Tudor Dixon and Christina Bobb

Trumpism values celebrity, even cheap celebrity, above all else, so it was not much of a surprise that TV announcers seized the MAGA moment in 2022 to try to vault themselves into relevance. Never forget the solid citizens who tried to play a different character on your teevee and came up short. Here’s to you Kari Lake, Tudor Dixon, and Christina Bobb.

— Nominated by: David Kurtz, TPM’s executive editor

Louie Gohmert

RIP to the densest member of Congress, who gambled away his political career thinking he should primary Ken Paxton (another fan favorite) because he was bored of being a backbench troll.

— Nominated by: TPM reader

The top five Republican candidates for governor of Michigan

The top five Republican candidates for governor of Michigan: James Craig, Perry Johnson, Michael brown, Michael Markey, Jr., Donna Brandenburg who got themselves disqualified to be on the ballot because they all used the same corrupt, incompetent signature gatherers and failed to have enough valid signatures, leaving the b-team candidates who did qualify to run for the primary.

— Nominated by: TPM reader

Doug Mastriano

Let us never forget Doug Mastriano, the Big Lie MVP and would-be governor of Pennsylvania. Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator, first earned infamy as a COVID denier. Ahead of January 6, Mastriano was on a Zoom with Christian nationalists where he ranted about “Satan” and “1776” as he prayed for the MAGA movement to “seize the power.” Mastriano’s campaign literally chartered buses to go to the Capitol on January 6. He was an official VIP guest at the January 6 rally where President Trump urged the crowd to “fight like hell.”

Things only got weirder from there. Mastriano then ran for governor and his campaign highlights included him getting outed for dressing up in a Confederate Army costume, being busted for maybe living in Jersey, having a running mate who was kicked out of his own house due to alleged domestic abuse, and speaking to a sparse crowd of a handful of his own volunteers. The whole thing was such a mess that even Salena Zito called it a “disaster.” With such a shambolic campaign, Mastriano lost so decisively that even he actually conceded. Now, Mastriano is in the state senate and its hard not to wonder how much statehouse crazy we’re all missing out on.

— Nominated by: Hunter Walker, TPM investigative reporter

Madison Cawthorn

Madison who?

— Nominated by: TPM reader

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