TIME Election 2014

Here Are the 7 Most Memorable Political Ads of 2014

From castrating hogs to wrestling alligators

More than 900,000 campaign ads aired on TV this election cycle just in races for the U.S. Senate alone. Given the sheer volume, then, it’s amazing that any of them break through the clutter.

Some ads got attention for being scary, desperate or just outright dishonest. But others managed to break through by being funny — intentionally or not — or clever or hitting the viewers’ emotions just right.

Here’s a look at seven of the most memorable ads of the 2014 elections.

1. Joni Ernst “Squeal”

“I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” Joni Ernst’s ballsy first TV ad launched her from a relative unknown to the Republican Senate candidate in Iowa and a political name on the national stage. According to the Washington Post, the ad got 400,000 views in its first three days on YouTube. Now, seven months later, she’s still known as the candidate who used to castrate pigs.

2. Terri Lynn Land “Really?”

Michigan Republican Senate hopeful Terri Lynn Land’s first TV ad was most unusual for what it did not say, and became memorable for all the wrong reasons. Mocking the idea that she was part of a “war on women,” Land asks viewers to “think about that for a moment” while she sips her coffee for an agonizingly slow 12 seconds of silence. The ad was meant to be sarcastic and clever, but it was roundly ridiculed, even by members of Land’s own party.

3. David Perdue “Outsider”

Republican David Perdue’s first ad in the Georgia Senate race accused various national politicians of being crybabies by portraying them as actual babies. While criticizing Congress for being childish and ineffectual isn’t a groundbreaking campaign strategy, the image of a crying infant sucking on a stethoscope with “Paul” on his shirt (meaning Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist) certainly stuck with viewers.

4. Mitch McConnell “Home”

An ad for Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went against the grain. Not only was it a full minute long (an eternity in TV ad time), but it also skipped the hot-button issues to focus on a Kentucky woman who got help from McConnell in getting her daughter back from an ex-husband. “I can’t even talk about him without getting emotional,” she says of McConnell as her eyes fill with tears. The emotionally affecting ad was aimed at softening the image of the often-stiff pol, and it worked.

5. Rob Maness “Gator”

Every election, candidates try to signify their local ties with a quirky hobby. This time, it was Alaska Sen. Mark Begich riding a snowmobile and West Virginia state Senate candidate Duane Zobrist kayaking and engaging in some light falconry. But neither holds a candle to Louisiana Senate candidate Rob Maness, who deftly bound the jaws of an alligator while making an extended metaphor about career politicians in Washington in this ad.

6. Alison Lundergan Grimes “Skeet Shooting”

These days, when a candidate says they’re shooting an ad, you have to wonder if they mean it literally. Ever since West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin won election with an ad where he shot a bull’s eye at a cap and trade bill, candidates have been taking up arms. The most memorable this time around was Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who went skeet-shooting to showcase her differences with President Barack Obama. The ad was a two-fer, since she also poked fun at McConnell’s own awkward gun handling.

7. J.D. Winteregg “When The Moment Is Right”

OK, so technically this was a viral video and not really an ad. And yes, it makes a pretty tacky joke about Speaker John Boehner’s last name, saying he has a case of “electile dysfunction.” But considering the odds facing Republican J.D. Winteregg, the fact that anyone at all was talking about this goofy video shows that the strategy worked. Winteregg got only 23% in the GOP primary, though, so Boehner got the last laugh.

MONEY Social Security

Here’s a Quick Guide to Fixing Social Security

Band-Aid on Social Security card
John Kuczala—Getty Images

These changes could easily balance the program for the next 75 years. But reaching consensus on the mix of reforms is the real challenge.

Social Security likely will move back to center stage after this week’s elections. The program’s finances have eroded bit by bit for years, drawing calls for change every year. But nothing has been done. Now Congress could continue kicking this can down the road. Or it could decide to actually tackle the problem and change things, most likely as part of a broader look that also includes Medicare and Medicaid.

With favorable prospects for a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, stories already abound about raising the retirement age, changing the annual cost-of-living adjustment or raising the ceiling on earnings subject to the payroll tax.

AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare and other Social Security support groups have gone on the offensive. Far from just defending the program from cuts, they are speaking out aggressively about the merits of raising benefits

All of which makes a recent report from the Social Security Administration particularly timely. It reviews more than 120 ideas for changing Social Security and calculates how each would affect the program’s future finances. The report was overseen by Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration. If any source is both informed and free from political spin, it is this one.

Within this list are enough changes to balance the program several times over during the next 75 years. But then, this has never been the issue. Rather, the contentious debate has been over the “right” mix of changes. And people have not been able to agree on that.

Here’s a quick guide to the reforms that would have the biggest impact, according to the report. It is tempting to just add up the financial impact of each change to see if they erase the Social Security shortfall. But, as the report notes, some reforms would affect others. So although the sum of impact of the changes will give you a ballpark estimate, the actual results are likely to be a bit different.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA). The annual cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security benefits (1.7% for 2015) has received lots of attention, primarily from a proposal to substitute a less-generous “chained” Consumer Price Index for the current inflation measure used to set the yearly change. Using the chained CPI would close 19% of the program’s projected shortfall. A more draconian measure—reducing the COLA by a percentage point from what it would otherwise be—would cut 61% of the shortfall all by itself. However, senior’s groups think the COLA should be increased to more accurately reflect the larger weight of health costs for older consumers. This proposal would raise the shortfall by 13%.

Monthly Benefits. Adjusting the complex formulas used to calculate benefits could make big dents in the shortfall. Right now, benefit increases are tied to changes in average wages. Linking them instead to general price inflation could cut as much as 90% of the system’s shortfall. That’s because wages historically have risen by more than the rate of inflation, so this change would effectively reduce the size of future benefit increases. There also are a slew of suggested sweeteners that would reduce the pain of smaller increases, although they tend not to add much to the shortfall.

Retirement Age. The normal retirement age for benefits is now 66 and set to rise to 67 in the year 2027. Raising it to 68 over a six-year period would shave 15% from the shortfall, while increasing it to 69 over 12 years would cut 35% off the long-term deficit. Raising the age to 70 over a shorter time period, and automatically adjusting it to reflect expected longevity gains, would cut the shortfall by an even larger 48%—but that’s only if the hike is combined with an increase in the earliest age for claiming benefits from 62 to 64. Reducing benefits to early retirees is strongly opposed by senior and labor groups who argue that workers in physically demanding jobs are often forced to retire early for health reasons.

Payroll Taxes and Covered Earnings. The system could be balanced by raising the payroll tax rate from its current level of 12.4% (paid half and half by employees and employers). There is a separate payroll tax for Medicare. Other proposals would raise the wage ceiling subject to payment taxes, which will rise to $118,500 in 2015. These suggestions would have large effects on program shortfalls. Simply eliminating the wage ceiling for employer payments would cut 50% from the projected 75-year deficit. Raising the ceiling so that 90% of earned wages are subject to Social Security taxes would cut 48% of the deficit. The stiffest medicine – raising the tax rate from 12.4% to 15.5%—would balance the program all by itself, and then some. On the flip side, a proposal to exempt people with more than 45 years of earnings from payroll taxes would widen the deficit by 11%. Such a change, advocates say, would improve retiree incomes and stop penalizing older workers, who must continue payroll taxes even thought their benefits do not rise as a result.

Trust Fund Investments. Social Security reserves are now invested in a special issue of U.S. Treasury Securities. Putting some of these funds into the stock market has long been a high priority of many conservatives, and strongly opposed by liberal groups. If 40% of trust funds were invested in stocks, and if they earned an annual return of 6.4%, after calculating the effects of inflation, this would close 21% of the program’s long-term funding shortfall. For comparison, the report assumed the long-term returns of the special issue of Treasury securities would be 2.9% a year, after inflation.

Getting the “right” mix of changes would be terrific, but enacting even a mediocre compromises next year would be far, far better. Think about a series of trade-offs. One side might get a later retirement age and reductions in the rate of future benefit growth, from changes to the COLA and annual wage base. The other side could get hefty hikes in payroll taxes for wealthier workers and more protection for lower-income, early retirees. Now if we could only get Congress to start the negotiations.

Philip Moeller is an expert on retirement, aging, and health. His book, “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” will be published early next year by Simon & Schuster. Reach him at moeller.philip@gmail.com or @PhilMoeller on Twitter.

More on Social Security:

3 Smart Fixes for Social Security and Medicare

Social Security is the Best Deal

Can We Save Social Security?

TIME Congress

No Good Options for GOP on Obama’s Immigration Move

Immigration Reform Rally / Protest in Tacoma, Washington
Jason Redmond—REUTERS With reform stalled in Congress, activists are urging Obama to act on his own.

Republicans may sue the president, but it's not likely to get far in the courts

When President Obama signs an executive order giving temporary deportation relief and work authorization for millions of undocumented immigrants, Republicans across the country and on Capitol Hill will blow up. But there’s not much they can do about it that will make a difference.

All Republican options have fatal flaws. Pass a bill to overrule the executive action? Obama will veto it. Try to override the veto? Not enough votes in the Senate, even if Republicans control it. Attach a rider to a government funding bill? End up with another unpopular government shutdown. Sue the president? Spend lots of taxpayer money and wait months if not years only to get rejected by a judge.

Still, the last option on the list may be the one Republicans go with.

While they are keeping their options open before the President shows his hand—as my colleague Alex Altman reports, it’s still unclear how big he will go—some have coalesced in favor of a lawsuit as the bare minimum response to what they think will be a monumental case in executive overreach.

This week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said on Fox that his recommendation to the Republican congressional leadership is to “immediately bring suit and seek an injunction restraining the president,” adding that he and his staff have been in “considerable communication” with House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy about how to respond to the President’s actions.

Other Republicans have advocated for a lawsuit, including Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who would “absolutely” support litigation to prevent the President’s executive action, according to spokesman Mike Reynard. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) have supported it in the past. And on Wednesday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul implied that he would too.

“Our Constitution requires the President to work with Congress to enact laws, not ignore Congress or the will of the people,” said McCaul in an emailed statement. “If the President decides to once again go it alone and grant amnesty through executive order by the end of the year, my colleagues and I will have no choice but to do everything in our power to stop him.”

Over the summer, the House passed a Blackburn-sponsored bill designed to freeze the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—limiting the number of children granted deferred deportation and work permits—and bar the President from taking future executive actions to expand efforts to postpone deportations. But the bill went nowhere in the Democratic-majority Senate and even under a Republican Senate it would face an Obama veto.

A senior House Republican aide familiar with the issue says that expanding the litigation the House authorized in July over the Affordable Care Act is “certainly one option,” although no decisions have been made by the party conference. All that would need to happen to sue the president over his executive order is for the House to take another vote. (One reason, perhaps, why the previous suit has not yet been filed—first pointed out by Washington Monthly—is that the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service agreed with legal experts in that the claim had no legal merit.) “We’ll continue to consult with our members and make a decision if and when the president acts,” says the aide.

The Republicans’ response could very well depend on what the President does, “if and when” that occurs. Expanding DACA to include some family members of those already eligible could provoke a different reaction than smaller measures, such as expanding work permits for those in the agricultural or high-skilled tech sector, which business groups have pushed. Immigration advocates counter that Obama might as well go big—affecting the lives of several million undocumented immigrants instead of around a million—because the GOP response is going to hold the same shrieking tenor no matter what.

A lawsuit may have little merit besides making some noise. Last month, the National Immigration Law Center and the American Immigration Council distributed a letter sent to the White House signed by 136 immigration law experts claiming that the President has the authority to use prosecutorial discretion in preventing large numbers of undocumented immigrants from being deported. In July, one of those experts, Stephen Yale-Loehr of Cornell University Law School, told TIME that the President has “wide discretion when it comes to immigration,” adding that expanding DACA falls “within the president’s inherent immigration authority.” In a one-word statement, distinguished Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence H. Tribe told TIME that the GOP claim was “unlikely” to have standing.

Of course, the legal merit of the lawsuit may not be all that important—simply announcing one could keep GOP Congressmen content with a ready response to constituent and reporter questioning in the immediate term. If and when the conservative backlash dies down, the party will be fully focused on 2016, when the GOP can undo Obama’s legacy by repainting the Oval Office red.

TIME Congress

Why John Boehner’s Job Is About to Get Harder

John Boehner Holds Media Briefing At US Capitol
Alex Wong—Getty Images U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner during a press briefing on July 31, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

With 25 members retiring, many old moderates are being replaced by young firebrands 

House Republicans are expected to grow their majority by 5-15 seats in next week’s midterm elections—but don’t expect governing to get any easier for beleaguered House Speaker John Boehner.

Boehner lost a whopping 25 incumbents to retirement this cycle and another three in primary defeats. By comparison, Democrats only had 16 retirements, and they’re in the minority. Not only did Boehner lose one of his best friends in Congress—Iowa Rep. Tom Latham—and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, but several of his committee chairmen, including Ways & Means Chair Dave Camp, Armed Services Chair Buck McKeon, and Natural Resources Chair Doc Hastings. Many of the retirees were old lions who helped nurse the party through the government shutdown and fiscal cliffs—the adults in the room, one could say.

Ten of the 28 seats up for grabs because of retirements and primary losses are in swing districts where “Republicans have succeeded in nominating candidates who are conciliators, people who have proven that they will work with the business community, get things done,” says David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “In the 18 districts that are safe, Boehner’s going to end up with his fair share of rebels, people who campaigned against the Republicans’ and Democrats’ status quo in Washington.”

To put things in perspective, one of the first votes of this current Congress was to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2013. That measure squeaked by the in the House 230-189. All 28 of the retirees and primary losers voted for the measure. If Boehner had lost just 12 votes—never mind 18—the government would have shut down.

“With 25 Republican members of Congress retiring, years of legislative expertise and wisdom are lost,” says James Thurber, head of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “Deep knowledge about lawmaking and policy will be replaced by highly ideological amateurs. This is a perfect formula for trouble for Speaker Boehner. He loses knowledgeable and trusted friends for an unpredictable and ungovernable caucus.”

Of course, the new class of firebrands in the next Congress will be offset by Republicans who will have beaten Democrats to win their seats, and all of those will be more moderate, having to defend more competitive seats. Republicans could pick up as many as 10 Democratic seats, or as few as a handful, depending on how the election goes.

And Boehner, who may also face a leadership challenge from Texas conservative Rep. Jeb Hensarling, has had a lot of practice dealing with recalcitrant members. “We live in a big country and it has bunch of different perspectives,” says John Feehery, a former top aide to ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert. “Boehner is pretty good at managing those perspectives and by letting the House work its will.”

Plus, Republicans elected Rep. Steve Scalise, a former head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, as House Majority Whip, the No. 3 position in leadership. The leaders hopes Scalise will act as a bridge to the conservative wing of the party.

Still, with Republicans poised to potentially retake the Senate, Boehner will have his hands full managing expectations. “Boehner’s biggest challenge is to manage the disappointment that will inevitably come from the Senate, especially if Republicans are in charge,” Feehery says. “They won’t be able to jam anything through the Senate and that will anger a lot of the new members.”

MONEY Airlines

Get Ready for Cellphone Calls on Airplanes

Federal agencies consider new rules about inflight calls.

As if airplanes weren’t unpleasant enough, you might soon get an earful from your seatmate. Two different federal agencies are now considering revising the rules about inflight calls, and bureaucrats will meet Wednesday to debate the issue.

While the Federal Communications Commission currently bans inflight calls, last December the agency proposed a new rule that would allow passengers to use cell phones above 10,000 feet. Airlines could choose whether to install the necessary technology and allow calls on flights. The FCC has not made a final decision.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation announced that it was working on its own proposal — and the rumor is that DOT wants to institute a new ban on inflight calls. DOT has yet to release its proposed rule, but its advisory group, the Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protection, is hosting Wednesday’s discussion.

Given that experts agree there is now little technological reason to limit cellphone use on airplanes, the big question is: Are the American people really mature enough to make discreet personal calls, in a cramped space, without disturbing their fellow passengers?

Members of Congress say no — and there’s bipartisan agreement on that point.

“Arguments in an aircraft cabin already start over mundane issues, like seat selection, reclining seats, and overhead bin space,” Rep. David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and more than 73 other elected representatives wrote to the FCC. “The volume and pervasiveness of voice communications would only serve to exacerbate and escalate these disputes.” (Read their full letter.)

If you feel strongly, tune in to the webcast Wednesday morning, when representatives from the DOT, the FCC, the cellphone industry and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants will debate the issue.

Until then, tell us what you think:

 

TIME 2014 Election

How Joe Manchin Ended Up Getting Out the Vote Against a Fellow Democrat

joe manchin
David Karp—No Labels/AP In this photo provided by No Labels, Former Ambassador to China and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, left, and Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.), address reporters after the pair became the new leaders of No Labels in New York, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.

His leadership of a bipartisan group just led him into a sticky situation in Colorado

As a rule, Sen. Joe Manchin will not campaign against a sitting Republican senator. A month ago, the West Virginia Democrat called the practice a “horrible precedent,” according to Politico, saying it would hurt his ability to cross the aisle if he were out there on the campaign trail tossing red meat to the crowd.

But thanks to his co-chairmanship of No Labels, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Manchin is now in charge of a get-out-the-vote operation against a sitting senator from his own party.

On Monday, Real Clear Politics reported that No Labels “will be staging independent Get Out The Vote efforts to support our Problem Solver members,” including Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is trying to unseat Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in one of the tightest races this year. Gardner, who was ranked as one of the most conservative members of Congress last year, has received the group’s “Seal of Approval” and touted his endorsement as a shorthand for his ability to work with Democrats.

Manchin’s spokesman says he was caught by surprise by No Labels recent efforts to back Gardner, even though the group endorsed the Colorado candidate back in April.

“Senator Manchin 100 percent supports Senator Udall and will do anything he can do to help him win his election, because he believes that moderates like Senator Udall can help move this country forward,” says Manchin communications director Jonathan Kott. “Senator Manchin just learned about the actions of No Labels and does not agree with this approach. He is going to discuss this with No Labels and will take the appropriate actions.”

Udall’s campaign was not fazed, however.

“We’ve opened 24 field offices, hired 100 organizers and recruited more than 5,000 volunteers,” says Chris Harris, a spokesman for the Udall campaign. “Let’s just say we’re not too concerned about anything resembling a field effort that can be cobbled together in the final week of the campaign.”

Gardner is ahead by around 3 points, according to a Real Clear Politics aggregation of polls.

TIME 2014 Election

History Favors Republicans if Georgia Senate Race Goes to Runoff

David Perdue Georgia Senate Race
John Bazemore—AP David Perdue waves to supporters after declaring victory in the Republican primary runoff for nomination to the U.S. Senate from Georgia, at his election-night party in Atlanta, July 22, 2014.

The GOP has won the last five statewide runoffs in the Peach State

If Georgia’s Senate race goes into overtime, the safe bet is on the Republicans. But if that runoff election will determine control of the Senate, it’s anyone’s game.

Elections handicappers are increasingly confident that the contest between Republican businessman David Perdue and Democratic philanthropist Michelle Nunn won’t be decided on November 4. History favors Republicans in a rematch, which would be held on January 6, three days after lawmakers take their oaths of office.

Republicans have won the past five statewide runoff contests by doing a better job turning out their base in the conservative-leaning state.

In 2008—the last Senate runoff in the state—Republican Saxby Chambliss won the first ballot by three percent of the vote, and then a month later trounced his Democratic opponent Jim Martin in the runoff by 15 points. Republicans were boosted in part by the lower turnout, which was around 57 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the same Senate race a month earlier.

“I think Michelle needs to win on November 4,” says University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. “I think it’s going to be really difficult for her afterwards.”

To win, Bullock says that Nunn would have to have “strong mobilization” from the African-American community and improve her support from white women, who are much more likely to vote for a Democrat than white men. Bullock sees white voters as the group that could doom Nunn.

“Overall from all the projections I’m seeing from the polls, none of that show her getting 30% of the white vote,” says Bullock. “So if she can’t do that I don’t think there’s any way she can pull it out.”

Another reason Nunn would fare worse in a runoff is Libertarian Amanda Swafford, who recently has been polling between one and six percent. Swafford’s support has been strong enough to keep Nunn and Perdue below the majority threshold needed to win outright on the first ballot. Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University says that Republicans would likely benefit from Libertarians coming to their side in a runoff, on top of the “party ID advantage” they already have in the state.

But both Gillespie and Bullock see a path forward for Nunn, as the media spotlight could turn to Georgia if it turns out to hold the key to a Senate majority. A recent CNN poll even showed Nunn with a 51% to 47% edge over Perdue in a hypothetical runoff, although the polling model took into account a November electorate instead of a likely smaller one.

“Both parties will pull out all the stops to win Georgia, and the outcome would be anyone’s guess,” says Gillespie of a runoff race for the Senate majority.

Democrats remain hopeful that Nunn—a political neophyte with the backing of her father, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn—will win in November despite the state’s reddish cast.

“Her best chance is to win it outright,” says the former Senate Democratic candidate Martin, who now works as an adjunct faculty member at Georgia State University College of Law. “[But] Georgia’s changed and the political environment has changed … A young, energetic, new leader both in the gubernatorial race [Democratic candidate Jason Carter] and in the Senate race attracts people no matter what their age. People like youth and enthusiasm and optimism.”

TIME Education

Rep. George Miller Responds To TIME Cover

TIME

The ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee responds to TIME's "Rotten Apples" cover.

This is one part of a series of readers’ responses to this week’s cover.

I strongly support Judge Treu’s decision in the Vergara case and found Time’s story about teacher tenure and dismissal policies generally informative and balanced. But the headline and cover art – “Rotten Apples,” 11/3/2014 – is grossly unfair to teachers and further polarizes an issue we must resolve. As someone who has been trying for years to bridge the divide in the education debate, I know as well as anyone that hyperbole only serves to continue to deny poor and minority children a better education. All parties in this debate, whether Time, the teacher unions, or the reformers, must drop the rhetoric and focus on the kids.

The fact is, California schools desperately need to improve. We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results. It is important to note that no other state in the country uses the confluence of laws challenged in Vergara in the way California does. Additionally, the case would not have been brought nor would the plaintiffs have prevailed if poor and minority students were achieving at high levels.

However, my home state can have a system that guarantees all students equal access to effective teachers if we get students and teachers the supports they need to learn and teach effectively and if we make reasonable and necessary changes to California’s tenure and dismissal policies to make them fairer to all involved. Vergara should be seen by all stakeholders in the state as an opportunity to move teaching further into a modern profession – not as a reason to dig in and cling to the past.

Calling teachers ‘Rotten Apples’ is grossly unfair and only serves to hurt the children who need effective teachers on their side. Now, for the good of students in California and education as a whole, we should drop the hyperbole and not let the inappropriate cover of Time detract from the critical issues Vergara highlighted and the barriers to equity it challenged.

In search of more perspectives on TIME’s cover?

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, responds here.

Christopher Ciampa, a teacher from Los Angeles, responds here.

Lily Eskelsen García, President of the National Education Association, responds here.

Courtney Brousseau, a high school senior from Thousand Oaks, Calif., responds here.

Billy Easton, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education, responds here.

Gary Bloom, former Santa Cruz City Schools Superintendent, responds here.

Educators from the Badass Teachers Association respond here.

Stuart Chaifetz, a New Jersey parent, responds here.

TIME 2014 Election

Republican Candidate Allegedly Fat Shames Opponent’s Staffer

California Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio, poses for a picture on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 23, 2014.
Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP California Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio, poses for a picture on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 23, 2014.

The ugly accusation comes in one of the closest and most controversial House races in the country

Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio allegedly ridiculed a female aide to his Democratic opponent by comparing her in an email to a photo of an overweight woman wearing only a bra and eating a snack.

DeMaio, a candidate for California’s 52nd Congressional District, sent the picture without text on January 22 to two members of his campaign, spokesperson Dave McCulloch and former policy director Todd Bosnich, according to a copy of the document. The email in question has the subject line “Kate Lyon,” the name of California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters’ deputy campaign manager. The photo of a woman partially undressed is not of Lyon.

The DeMaio campaign declined to comment on the authenticity of the email when contacted by TIME. “We are done responding to Mr. Bosnich’s politically motivated smears,” said Dave McCulloch, a spokesman for DeMaio, in an emailed statement. “Carl is focused on his plan to reform Congress and create jobs.”

The story was first reported by the San Diego CityBeat.

Bosinch has also accused DeMaio of sexual harassment, saying DeMaio repeatedly groped him and made unwanted sexual advances on the job. The San Diego County District Attorney declined to bring charges this week after an investigation of those claims. DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilman, is openly gay and has been touted as a “new kind of Republican.”

According to a recent poll by U-T San Diego and 10News, the race is too close to call, with DeMaio favored by 48% of voters and Peters favored by 45%. The margin of error in the poll was 4.3%.

The Peters campaign released a statement after the email was made public.

“Kate Lyon is one of the most experienced and respected members of our staff,” said Alex Roth, the Peters communications director. “She previously worked as an attorney, for NARAL Pro-Choice America and for Planned Parenthood. It is disgusting and despicable that this champion for women’s rights, or any woman, would be demeaned this way. I wish I could say it is shocking, but coming from Carl DeMaio, nothing is shocking.”

TIME 2014 Election

Watch Obama Encounter a Jealous Boyfriend: ‘Don’t Touch My Girlfriend’

Politicans cast early vote ballots
Antonio Perez—Chicago Tribune / Getty Images President Barack Obama casts his early votes at Dr. Martin Luther King Community Center in Chicago Monday, Oct. 20, 2014.

'I really wasn't planning on it'

President Barack Obama held his own against a jealous boyfriend in Chicago on Monday.

“Mr. President, don’t touch my girlfriend,” said a man identified by CNN as Mike Jones, as Obama cast his early ballot in the Illinois state elections next to a woman named Aia Cooper.

“I really wasn’t planning on it,” Obama said, without looking up from his ballot, as Cooper laughed. A visibly embarrassed Cooper then offered an apology on behalf of her fiancé. Obama was sympathetic, though, joking “there’s an example of a brother just embarrassing me for no reason.”

After a brief conversation as the two finished voting, the video shows, Obama gave Cooper a quick kiss on the cheek, to give Jones “something to talk about.”

[CNN]

Read next: Obama Votes Early in Chicago

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