The Hot Seats: Arpaio Aims for Revenge, Kansas Goes Crazy

Your weekly guide to the midterms’ most talked-about races.

Joe Arpaio and Kelli Ward.
Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photos by Ralph Freso/Getty Images, Alex Wong/Getty Images.

1. Arizona Senate

Joe Arpaio’s campaign goes for the murder-suicide against Kelli Ward.
With just a week and change left until this final blockbuster Senate primary of the summer, the race has reached its nutty potential. Former state Sen. Kelli Ward and octogenarian former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio have been splitting the conservative opposition to Rep. Martha McSally, with Ward getting the bigger half. Arpaio, though, is definitely not suspending his campaign and throwing his support to Ward. Instead, as the Washington Examiner reported this week, he’s hired two disgruntled ex-Ward staffers, who openly say they’re out for “revenge,” and the Arpaio campaign has taken a sharply anti-Ward turn. This hilariously captioned video of Ward doing karaoke is allegedly their handiwork. The Arpaio revenge missile appears to be achieving its main goal of … assuring McSally’s victory on Aug. 28?

2. Kansas Governor

An enduring liability for Republicans.
No recount will be necessary after all. Once it was clear that the provisional ballots weren’t going his way, Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded the Republican gubernatorial primary to Secretary of State and prominent piece of work Kris Kobach. Kobach, perhaps even more so than Donald Trump, should represent the manifestation of the end stages of a political party. He is someone who lost a court case that he personally argued earlier this year so badly that the judge ordered him to take basic legal training. His “election integrity” commission was a flop and a fraud. He is to the right of ex-Gov. Sam Brownback, whose right-wing experiments sparked a revolt within the state. He should lose. Right? He should just lose. The Cook Political Report has moved his race against Democrat Laura Kelly to a toss-up.

3. Minnesota Attorney General

An enduring liability for Democrats.
The domestic abuse allegations that surfaced the weekend before Minnesota’s primary had no apparent effect on Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid for state attorney general. Ellison, who’s also the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, coasted to victory over several rivals with over 50 percent of the vote. How long will he last in the race? The story certainly isn’t going away. CBS News aired an interview on Thursday with Ellison’s ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan, who’s accused Ellison of trying to drag her out of a bed. Each day that Ellison stays in the race raises questions for his Democratic allies, both locally and nationally, about how they can condone this.


4. Florida’s 26th District

Carlos Curbelo is weirdly kinda safe?
You can tell a Republican incumbent is in good shape when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee feels compelled to release polling showing that the Republican is winning. That happened this week with Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who represents a South Florida, D-plus-6 district that Hillary Clinton won by 16 percentage points. On the same day that the Cook Political Report moved the race from “toss-up” to “lean Republican,” the DCCC released private polling that showed its candidate, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, trailing Curbelo by 7 percentage points. The DCCC explained, though, that when basic biographical information was shared, the race went was a 46–46 tie. Curbelo isn’t in the clear yet, but his heretical moves against House GOP leadership—forcing immigration votes, introducing a carbon tax, and so on—have helped reinforce an independent brand that could save one of the GOP’s most unlikely seats.

5. New Jersey’s 3rd District

Tom MacArthur’s race is finally a toss-up. What took so long?
When I went to a four-hour town hall filled with monologue-length screaming and jeering in Rep. Tom MacArthur’s face last year, all I could think about afterward was how toast this guy was. After all, he was the “moderate” member who worked in conjunction with the Freedom Caucus to resurrect the House GOP’s repeal-and-replace bill by weakening protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Sure, this town hall was on the bluer, Philadelphia-burbs side of the district, but how could this guy survive in his R-plus-2 district after playing a leading role in Republicans’ biggest 2018 vulnerability? Well, maybe he won’t after all. Cook has moved New Jersey’s 3rd into the toss-up column after a Monmouth poll showed the incumbent in an effective tie with his well-credentialed opponent, Andy Kim. At least something makes sense.

6. Ohio’s 14th District

Get ready for Republican ads pushing back against Trump
One messaging shift to keep an eye on as we shift from primary to general election season is the beginning of a (however modest) Republican pushback against President Trump. This week, Ohio Rep. Dave Joyce, who represents a Cleveland-area district, released an ad in which he boasted of his independence from both House Republican leaders and President Trump. “When Republican leaders in Congress tried to take away protections for pre-existing conditions, I said no,” he says. “I won the fight to fund the Great Lakes restoration, and when President Trump tried to take it away, I said no again.” Keep in mind that Joyce’s district isn’t even that competitive; Cook rates it as “likely Republican,” and the president won it by 12 percentage points in 2016. If this is what he’s saying from a comfortable district, imagine what those Republicans in the most competitive of seats will say.

7. Florida Senate

Bill Nelson needs to snap out of it.
Could it be that Sen. Bill Nelson, after 18 years in the Senate and 46 years in public office, is not ready for prime time? Nelson had been saying repeatedly that Russia already had access to Florida’s voter systems this cycle. He pointed to a letter that he and Sen. Marco Rubio sent to Florida election supervisors that, in his words, “let them know that the Russians are in the records.” Except the July 2 letter said nothing of the sort—it warned about possible Russian meddling and urged them to avail themselves of federal resources against foreign election meddling. Nelson finally eased his language this week, saying, “It would be foolish to think that the Russians are not continuing to do what they did in Florida in 2016.” An NBC report released Friday, without much detail, suggested that Nelson is referring to something that’s classified and isn’t just fabricating this entirely. But Nelson would be wise to reset, go to the Villages, and tell the old people how Scott is going to take their Medicare and Social Security.