TIME 2014 Election

Meet the Woman Who Could Keep Control of the Senate Up for Grabs

Amanda Swafford Libertarian Georgia Senate
Courtesy Swafford for US Senate

Libertarian Amanda Swafford considers forcing a Jan. 6 run-off in the Peach State’s Senate race a victory for third party candidates everywhere

There is a nightmare scenario that keeps most politicos working on both sides of the aisle up at night: after the midterm elections, and even through the anticipated Dec. 6 run off in Louisiana, control of the Senate likely won’t be decided until Jan. 6, the date a run-off in Georgia will take place, if any one candidate fails to muster 50% of the vote. It is this scenario that Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford, who regularly pulls 5% in most polls, relishes.

“In that situation, if we did force a runoff,” Swafford tells TIME, “I’d say that’s a clear mandate from people of Georgia for a small government and less involvement in people’s lives.”

Small government has hardly been a theme in the race between Republican businessman David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn, who are competing to fill retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss’s seat. The two have spent millions firing at one another: Perdue accused Nunn of funding terrorists through her work with the Bush Family Foundation and Nunn said Perdue lost jobs and discriminated against female workers as CEO of Dollar General.

“If that nastiness continues in a run-off, the folks responsible for the run-off will probably just stay home,” Swafford says of her supporters. “And they will have to find new voters in order to win and they will be exceptionally hard.”

Perdue now leads Nunn by 3.4 points, according to an average of Georgia polls by Real Clear Politics. But Perdue has only broken the 50% threshold in one out five of the most recent polls, and he’ll need at least 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off. Swafford’s “mere presence on the ballot creates the potential for a run-off,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races at the non-partisan Cook Political Report. “Overall, Libertarians tend to draw more from Republicans, so she is a bigger problem for Perdue than Nunn.”

But Swafford says that may not be the case with her voters, who she maintains are open to whomever makes the best case. Swafford isn’t even sure she’d caucus with the Republicans if, by some miracle, she were to be elected.

And so an unlikely figure could impact national politics. As of the end of June, Swafford had raised $7,683 for her senatorial bid. The single 37-year-old has kept her day job as a paralegal as she has mounted her campaign. “It makes for a lot of late nights and early mornings,” she says, “but I believe electing someone to the Senate like me, who knows what it’s like to work a job, have a boss, and make ends meet on a regular budget, would bring a valuable perspective to the Senate.”

Swafford is pro-choice and for the legalization of marijuana. And, like most Libertarians, she’s deeply suspicious of President Obama’s engagement abroad, particularly in Syria and Iraq. “Last year, the President wanted to bomb Syria for their chemical weapons, now he’s asking for their help to defeat another enemy,” she says. (Obama hasn’t actually asked Syrian strongman Bashar Assad for help in defeating ISIS.)

Swafford benefits from Georgia’s strong Libertarian history. It is home to 2008 Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman. And that same year, John Monds made history by becoming the first Libertarian candidate to draw more than a million votes—statewide or nationally—though he still lost his attempt to become Georgia Public Service Commissioner. Four years later, Libertarian David Staples made another bid for the same office and again broke the one million-vote threshold, though again fell short. But, unlike Swafford, both of those men faced only one rival from a major party, not two.

Swafford says she had no choice but to run statewide: Georgia’s ballot access laws for third party candidates for state races are some of the most restrictive in the country. “So, it’s either run for city council, or statewide,” says Swafford, who was elected to her hometown city council in Fiery Branch in 2010. If they lose this Senate seat, Georgia Republicans who control the state legislature might consider rethinking those restrictive third party laws. Because if politicians like Swafford can’t clinch state office, spoiling a statewide race is the second best—and clearly effective—option to get their ideas out. It turns out, some politics might be better off local.

TIME 2014 Election

Cosmopolitan Ditches ‘Sexiest Man’ Scott Brown in Senate Race

Scott Brown
In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo, Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown speaks during a campaign event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. Elise Amendola—AP

Does he get no thanks for posing nude back in '82?

Cosmopolitan is “picking brains over brawn” in the 2014 Senate race in New Hampshire: the magazine is endorsing not Scott Brown, its 1982 “Sexiest Man in America,” but his competitor, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, the magazine said Tuesday.

“While we wish we could support the man who once posed nude in our pages, his policy positions just aren’t as solid as his abs were in the ’80s,” Cosmo said of the Republican candidate, a onetime Senator from Massachusetts who has decamped to the Granite State.

Cosmo added that Brown lagged behind incumbent candidate Shaheen in clarifying his positions on key women’s issues, including access to reproductive care.

“Brown said he disapproved of cutting family planning funding, but also supported a bill to defund Planned Parenthood,” Cosmo said. “And when reporters tried to ask him about his views on contraception access, he literally hid in the bathroom to avoid answering the question.”

In June 1982, Cosmo ran a two-page centerfold of a beaming, naked Brown, the winner of its “Sexiest Man in America” contest and then a 22-year-old law student at Boston College.

Two decades later, when Brown was a Senator and running for re-election in Massachusetts (he lost to the liberal Elizabeth Warren), Cosmo again lauded him as looking “pretty damn good for his age,” quipping “Vote for Brown. He Has One Hell of a Stimulus Package.”

Polls in New Hampshire have shown a tight race between Shaheen and Brown, who appears to be buoyed by the state’s discontent with President Barack Obama.

TIME 2014 Election

Midterm Elections See a Surge in Ads About Energy and Environment

Projected to hit highest level ever

Political ads about energy and the environment will likely reach their highest number ever this election cycle, according to the Cook Political Report.

While these issues usually don’t rule the national polls of top midterm election priorities, there are several competitive races this cycle with energy at the forefront, especially in the Senate. There is also new outside money being spent on environmental issues, particularly from billionaire Tom Steyer, who has spent a reported $26.6 million of his own money this cycle to raise the profile of climate change through his super-PAC NextGen Climate Action.

“We’ve already seen more spots in U.S. Senate general elections alone (87,000 as of September 12) than we saw by this point in both Senate and House races in 2008 (56,000),” writes Elizabeth Wilner, a Senior Vice President of Kantar Media Ad Intelligence and contributing editor of the Cook Political Report. “If you add in 2014 House spots, we’ve nearly doubled the 2008 number (102,000). And with overall trends in advertising being what they are, with spot counts increasing over time, logic points to 2014 being the biggest cycle for energy/environment-related advertising, ever.”

Many of the “toss-up” Senate races this year have candidates bashing each other over energy industries that are economically or culturally important to the state. The prospect of the Keystone XL pipeline has ignited races from Michigan down to Louisiana, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is trying to prove how her chairmanship on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will help the state increase its offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has campaigned on his commitment to fight the “War on Coal” while his Democratic rival, Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, hit the airwaves to put distance between herself and President Barack Obama on the issue. In Colorado, the support for the green energy industry has thrust Republican Rep. Cory Gardner’s and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s campaigns to cut ads with their candidates in front of wind turbines. And in Alaska, Democratic Sen. Mark Beigch has aired an ad of him driving a snowmobile over the ice of the Arctic Ocean to tout his efforts to expand drilling there. In a response ad for Republican opponent Dan Sullivan—a former commissioner of the Alaska’s Department of Natural Resourcesan X Games medalist criticized Begich’s “lame tricks,” driving skills and voting record.

Some energy industries appear to have a have a greater hold than others on donors’ wallets. While Democrats and Republicans are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure out who is more pro-coal in Rep. Nick Rahall’s southern West Virginia district, NextGen Climate Action has yet to receive much support, receiving four donations of $250, $500, $300 and $2,500 in August, according to Bloomberg.

TIME

Iowa Absentee Ballots Have Nearly Doubled Since 2010

Enthusiasm is building ahead of November's election to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin

Absentee ballot requests have nearly doubled in the state of Iowa since 2010, according to government statistics released Monday, reflecting higher voter engagement ahead of November’s election to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

With 43 days to go until the state votes, Iowa Democrats have a sizable advantage over Republicans in early voting numbers. Almost 58,000 Democrats have requested an absentee ballot this year, up from around 34,318 four years ago, said Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz in a statement. Republican absentee ballot requests are at 31,099, up from 12,710, and the number of independent or “no party” requests have increased from 9,664 to 23,043. Overall there have been 112,178 requests this year compared to 56,725 in 2010.

Dr. Kedron Bardwell, a political scientist at Simpson College, says it’s too soon to tell if the numbers indicated an “enthusiasm gap” in the race between Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican state senator Joni Ernst. Bardwell notes that the Iowa Republican Party has placed more of an emphasis on voting in-person over absentee ballots in the past, but that recently-elected party chairman Jeff Kaufmann had vowed to close the early voting gap.

“This shows they have a long way to go in that respect,” says Bardwell. “If we see the Republican absentee and early voting numbers continue to lag the Democrats well into October, we will know it is a symptom of a larger problem, with Republicans increasingly playing ‘catch up.'”

TIME Congress

Gillibrand’s Harasser Revealed as Late Hawaii Senator

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is interviewed in his U.S. Capitol office on July 26, 2012.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is interviewed in his U.S. Capitol office on July 26, 2012. Chris Maddaloni—CQ-Roll Call

Report indicates it was Daniel Inouye

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) made waves in her recent book when she revealed that one of her “favorite” older U.S. senators once told her not to “lose too much weight now” after having her second child because “I like my girls chubby.”

Gillibrand told TIME two weeks ago that she wouldn’t name which senator had said this to her. “It’s less important who they are than what they said,” she said, adding she that hoped relaying the story would make women feel more comfortable when similar things happened to them. But The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reports that that the Senator in question was the late Daniel Inouye, the legendary Hawaii Democrat and World War II veteran who passed away in 2012. The Times also points out that Inouye had a dark chapter in his history: In 1992 his hairdresser accused him of forcing her to have sex with him.

Gillibrand’s office declined to comment on the report.

TIME Congress

Rand Paul Calls Kerry ‘Intellectually Dishonest’ on Arming Syrian Rebels

"We will be sending arms into chaos”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday as “intellectually dishonest” about the Obama Administration’s claim that it doesn’t need new congressional authority to arm Syrian rebels.

“You are intellectually dishonest if you argue that something passed in 2001 to [deal] with the people who attacked us in 9/11 has anything to do with sending arms into Syria,” Paul said during an afternoon speech on the Senate floor. “It’s intellectually dishonest and to say otherwise you are an intellectually dishonest person.”

Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that the Administration would act under congressional authority passed in 2001 to fight al-Qaeda and its affiliates as it arms more moderate Syrian rebels for the battle against the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“The rebels have been all over the map,” Paul said. “There’s said to be 1500 different groups. It is chaos over there. We will be sending arms into chaos.”

Paul said the Senate should vote on a separate measure to expand military action in Syria instead of including it in the short-term government funding bill that the House passed Wednesday.

The issue of whether or not to train and equip the Syrian rebels opposed to ISIS has divided potential 2016 presidential candidates. While Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) oppose the measure, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) supports it.

TIME Congress

Kerry Seeks to Assure Lawmakers About ISIS Strategy

US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies about US policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State Group (IS) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 17, 2014.
US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies about US policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State Group (IS) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 17, 2014. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

The Secretary of State returns from an overseas trip to drum up support in Congress for the fight against ISIS

Secretary of State John Kerry tried to assure lawmakers Wednesday that the U.S. would not be alone in the fight against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, as Congress looks to pass legislation this week to equip and train the “moderate” Syrian rebels.

“This cannot be simply a campaign by the West against the East,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee before which Kerry testified. Kerry responded that Menendez was “absolutely correct.”

“When we say ‘a global coalition’ we mean it,” said Kerry, who recently returned from a trip to the Middle East to rally about 40 countries for the fight against the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). While there’s currently “no discussion” about countries sending in ground troops, Kerry said some have committed to air strikes. U.S. Central Command announced Wednesday that it has conducted a total of 174 airstrikes across Iraq.

Kerry said military action would end “when we have ended the capability of [ISIS] to engage in broad-based terrorist activity.” The ultimate goals of the fight include a “political settlement” in both Syria and Iraq to end terrorist safe havens there, he added. Kerry said that the U.S. strategy will be a “multiyear effort.”

The top two leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez and ranking Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee, cautioned the Obama Administration against engaging in such a long military conflict in Syria without new, explicit congressional authority.

“As I have said many times, temporary and targeted air strikes in Iraq and Syria fall under the President’s powers as commander in chief, but if the military campaign lasts for an extended period of time, Congress will need to approve an [ISIS]-specific Authorization for the Use of Military Force,” Menendez said.

Kerry reiterated the Administration’s position that it would act under the 2001 AUMF against al-Qaeda and associated forces, enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said that when ISIS separated from al-Qaeda a year ago in a “publicity stunt,” the organization did not change its targets and thus was still under the force of the previous congressional authority. Kerry added that he would welcome congressional action, but that President Barack Obama would act if the legislative branch did not.

Corker ripped Kerry’s response.

“To say that you’re going to do this, regardless of what we say—you’re not going to ask for a buy-in from the United States Senate or the House of Representatives on behalf of the American people—in a conflict that you say is going to be multiyear… taking us into another country with a different enemy, it’s exercising the worse judgment possible,” Corker said.

TIME 2014 Election

Georgia Senate Race Becomes a Battle of the Bushes

David Perdue Georgia Senate Race
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. John Bazemore—AP

The former President endorses the Republican in the race while his son attacks

Former Dollar General CEO David Perdue flew to Kennebunkport, Maine over the weekend to seek former President George H. W. Bush’s endorsement of his bid to fill an open Senate seat in Georgia.

Bush’s endorsement of the Republican candidate should have been a no-brainer. But the former President has a special affinity for Perdue’s Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, who is on leave from her job as CEO of Bush’s Points of Light Foundation. Bush has said in the past that he was “lucky” to have Nunn, who came to work with the Bush Family Foundation after Points of Light merged in 1992 with City Cares, a national volunteer organization she’d started in Georgia.

Bush did end up endorsing Perdue but he didn’t mention Nunn, saying his support for Perdue grew out of his increasing opposition to the Senate Democratic leadership. Control of the upper chamber is at stake this November. “I have lost any confidence in the current Senate leadership, and believe David Perdue will be an independent voice for Georgia while working for positive solutions to our toughest challenges,” Bush, 90, said in a statement. “Barbara and I commend him to every Georgian voter who cares about America’s future.”

But then on Monday, Bush’s son Neil Bush, who is chairman of the Points of Light board, issued a statement expressing unhappiness with Perdue. At issue is a a Perdue campaign that says Points of Light gave money to “inmates and terrorists.”

“That’s ridiculous. It really makes my blood boil to think that someone would make that kind of an allegation, whether it’s an independent political group or a candidate for office,” Neil Bush, 59, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Anyone who makes that claim needs to understand the facts and then they need to denounce those claims. To attack an organization founded by my father, whose integrity is unimpeachable, to smear our organization for political gain, is in my opinion shameful.”

The line was drawn from internal research into its own weaknesses the Nunn campaign compiled, which was then leaked to the press. Perdue’s campaign on Wednesday said it had no plans to take down the ad, despite Bush’s criticism. “Michelle Nunn’s own campaign plan highlights serious concerns about her group’s association with terrorist-linked organizations,” said Megan Whittemore, a Perdue spokeswoman. “The people of Georgia will have to decide if that’s who they want representing them in the U.S. Senate.”

But opposition research documents tend to paint worst-case scenario attacks, and even FactCheck.org said the Perdue attack distorted Nunn’s leaked memo. “Actually, the grants refer to $13,500 that eBay sellers—not the foundation—donated to the U.S. affiliate of the international charity Islamic Relief Worldwide,” the group said. “Also, there is no evidence Islamic Relief USA, a federally approved charity, has ties to the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas.”

Nunn said in a statement that she was “appreciative of what Neil Bush said.”

“Washington can learn a lot from organizations like Points of Light,” Nunn said. “But David Perdue playing politics and falsely attacking an organization that helps so many is exactly what’s wrong with Washington and politics today. David Perdue should take down his dishonest ads and quit falsely attacking Points of Light.”

TIME 2014 Election

Georgia Democrat Accuses Opponent of Pay Discrimination

Michelle Nunn courts women in a close Senate race

Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn’s Senate campaign is out with a new ad Friday, obtained first by TIME, hitting her GOP opponent David Perdue for pay discrimination when he was CEO of Dollar General.

From the ad’s script:

While Perdue was CEO of Dollar General over two thousand women sued the company for “engaging in a pattern of discrimination.”

An independent investigation found “female managers were paid less than similarly situated male managers.”

And Perdue’s company was forced to pay a settlement of over 18 million dollars.

If David Perdue didn’t do right by women at his company, why would he do right for Georgia?

Federal investigators for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that female store managers at Perdue’s Dollar General “were discriminated against” and “generally were paid less” than males under his tenure, according to a Mother Jones story confirmed by Georgia PolitiFact. Dollar General paid a settlement of almost $19 million to 2,100 female employees for not paying them equal wages.

Democrats nationally and in races like Georgia’s have pushed the idea that Republicans are not for equal pay and have spoken of the GOP waging a “war against women” on reproductive and economic policy. It has proven an effective message with female voters. Democrats lost the women’s vote in 2010, and with it control of the House and six Senate seats. Determined not to make the same mistake, they introduced a women’s economic agenda, including the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has been voted down twice in the Senate by Republicans this year. Republicans argue the bill is a sop to trial lawyers and have introduced their own version, which incentivizes employers to provide equal pay, rather than punishing them on the regulatory side, as the Democrats favor.

Nunn is trailing Perdue slightly—by 1.6 percentage points— in polls, according to an average of Georgia polls by Real Clear Politics. But she’s beating him amongst women, 45% to 33% in a recent CBS/New York Times survey. In order to win, she’ll need to maintain that edge and build on it. Thus the ads hitting Perdue as bad for women.

“Women understand the negative impact of Obama’s failed policies better than anyone, from losing their doctors due to Obamacare and feeling the effects of Obama’s economy on their hard-earned paychecks,” says Megan Whittemore, a spokeswoman for the Perdue campaign. “David absolutely believes in equal pay for equal work. That is the law and he has always supported that. Unlike Michelle Nunn who will make it harder for women to succeed, David will be a strong voice for Georgia’s women and families in the U.S. Senate.” Meanwhile, Perdue has an ad out hitting her as too liberal for Georgia.

 

 

 

TIME 2014 Election

Planned Parenthood Pushes Back Against GOP on Birth Control Support

Pro-Choice Supporters Rally In DC Against Restrictive Abortion Laws
Women hold up signs during a women's pro-choice rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 11, 2013. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The organization says the candidates are playing politics with women's health

Planned Parenthood is joining liberal groups in attacking Republican candidates who have recently come out in support of expanding access to over-the-counter contraceptives. Planned Parenthood Votes, the organization’s political action committee, launched ad buys in Colorado and North Carolina on Friday totaling nearly $1 million, targeting GOP Senate candidates Thom Tillis and Cory Garndner.

Both Tillis and Gardner are among Republican candidates who have recently said they believe contraception should be made more widely available. Planned Parenthood, however, is calling their stance a “last-ditch-political ploy” to attract women voters who polls show are wary of the GOP. The group says candidates want to turn “the pill into yet another bill” by shifting cost of contraceptives off of insurance companies and onto women.

“Women aren’t fooled,” Planned Parenthood Votes Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement. “They know that the politicians like Cory Gardner and Thom Tillis proposing to make birth control available over-the-counter are the same ones trying to get rid of insurance coverage for birth control, which would set women back economically to the tune of $600 a year out of pocket.”

The nearly $1 million buy includes about $500,000 worth of TV buys in North Carolina and over $400,000 worth of buys in Colorado. The ads are a part of Planned Parenthood’s Women are Watching campaign, which targets “anti-women’s health politicians.” Friday’s ads are Planned Parenthood Votes’ first buys of this election cycle.

Tillis and Gardner are both facing incumbent Democrats in the upcoming election. Though Tillis’ battle against Sen. Kay Hagan is considered a toss-up, recent polls show Gardner’s opponent Sen. Mark Udall ahead by over three points.

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