Politics

Wow, a Lot of 2022 Republican Candidates Have Been Accused of Assaulting or Threatening to Murder Someone

The three men are seen in side by side by side close-ups.
Eric Greitens, Sean Parnell, and Herschel Walker. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images, Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images, and Michael Zarrilli/Getty Images.

Things might be different by November 2022—you might even say that the only constant in this crazy world is change itself—but as it stands right now, Republicans are, by conventional indicators, in a good position to retake Congress. The incumbent Democratic president’s approval rating is low, off-year elections in swing states are tilting red, and rising costs are forcing certain bloggers (me) who don’t enjoy the subject of macroeconomics not just to pay more for groceries but to read articles about “aggregate demand” and “the money supply.”

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The key phrase in the paragraph above, though, is conventional indicators. Historical models and precedents don’t account for one party being controlled by someone like Donald Trump, who judges potential congressional candidates only by whether they support his absurd claim that he won the previous election. The exclusive prioritization of this specific attribute means ignoring other factors that are traditionally used to screen potential nominees, such as whether they have a personality and record that might appeal to a specific electorate, or whether they have been accused of violent crimes.

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The latter consideration has been made salient in recent days thanks to developments in a custody trial involving Sean Parnell, a right-wing Pennsylvania activist and former Army Ranger who earned Trump’s endorsement in his state’s 2022 Senate primary two months ago. (Parnell’s only previous run for office was an unsuccessful 2020 challenge to Pittsburgh-area Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb.) In the trial, which is ongoing, Parnell’s ex-wife testified that he once strangled her and that he has hit their children. In 2019, meanwhile, Parnell made an appearance on a Fox Nation talk show in which he blamed feminism for creating “women tyrants” and asserted that “men don’t want to put up with the BS of high-maintenance narcissistic women.” (He has denied the accusations of abuse and said his comments on the show were tongue-in-cheek.)

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Similar accusations have been made against three other candidates in potentially competitive 2022 races who have either been endorsed by Trump or appear to have a good chance at earning his support:

• In Georgia, Trump has endorsed the Senate campaign of former football player Herschel Walker. Walker’s ex-wife and one of his ex-girlfriends have both accused him of threatening to kill them; his ex-wife, who received a protective order against him, said he once pointed a gun at her. Walker denies the ex-girlfriend’s accusations and has said he does not remember threatening his now-ex-wife.

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• In Ohio’s 16th District—currently represented by Republican Anthony Gonzalez, who has decided not to run for reelection after becoming an outcast in his party for voting to impeach Trump after Jan. 6—the former president has endorsed a onetime aide of his named Max Miller. Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham says Miller pushed her against a wall and slapped her while they were dating during Trump’s term. (Miller denies it.) Per the Washington Post, Miller also pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges related to an alleged 2007 assault (the charges were later dismissed as part of a program for first-time offenders) and guilty to a disorderly conduct charge related to a fight outside a hookah bar in 2010.

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• In Missouri, former Gov. Eric Greitens, who is running for Senate, has appeared with Rudy Giuliani and hired Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle as the national chair of his campaign. Greitens resigned as governor in 2018 after a woman who was not his wife said he had slapped her, intimidated her into performing oral sex on him, and taken a nude photo of her without her permission that he told her he would release if she spoke about their affair. He denies the allegations and says the affair was consensual; an investigative committee of state legislators found the woman’s version of events “credible.”

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Some Republican Party operatives think it would be a bad idea to nominate these candidates, and are giving quotes to that effect in many of the stories that discuss these abuses. The relevant cautionary tale is Roy Moore, the 2017 Senate candidate who lost an election in Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones amid allegations that he’d sexually abused teenage girls and, relatedly, been banned from a shopping mall for creeping people out. Almost any race can be a swing race if one of the candidates is offensive enough.

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Conversely, there is this Mitch McConnell quote in Politico about why he’s supporting Walker despite the allegations against him:

There are some things written that indicate he’s had some challenges in his life. On the other hand, the good news is, he’s made several impressive performances on national television. 

So, overall, a balanced ledger! It’s a real large-scale political science experiment shaping up for 2022, then, regarding the relative power of election “fundamentals” and party endorsements to overcome what you might refer to as flawed, deeply flawed, or insanely flawed candidates. What a blessing for all of us that we get to be a part of it.

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