Meet the colorful candidates

Al Kamen
Columnist September 28, 2012

So long, Rep. Barney Frank. How we’ll miss your cranky wit and withering insults. Adieu, Rep. Thad McCotter . Without you, there’ll be no more obscure Bob Dylan lyrics quoted on the House floor.

Congress has recently seen a massive drain of the eminently quotable characters who livened up the institution’s predictable pinstripes and talking points. But we’re hopeful that the 2012 elections might bring some replacements.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Here are just a few candidates running for House and Senate this cycle who, if elected (and we’re ignoring their odds for the moment), we’d nominate for the “Character Caucus”:

●Kerry Bentivolio, a Republican running for a House seat in Michigan. This might be the one guy who could make McCotter (whose old seat he’s seeking) seem ho-hum vanilla. Bentivolio’s a reindeer farmer and a part-time rent-a-Santa; he and his four-legged sidekicks are available for your holiday festivities. Of course, he appears shirtless, petting one of the critters, on his company’s Web site. Icing on the kooky cake: He’s a bit of a 9/11 conspiracy theorist and once appeared in a bizarre satire film on the subject.

●Joe Coors, a Republican running for a House seat in Colorado. Can we call him Joe Six-Pack? A member of the famous brewing family, he must be a huge hit at keg parties. And just think of the headline-writing possibilities.


Joe Coors is a Republican running for a House seat in Colorado and a member of the famous brewing family. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

●Alan Grayson, a Democratic former congressman seeking his old seat in Florida. He is a font of incendiary quotes. On GOP health-care proposals, he once said, “Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.” A lobbyist was a “K Street whore,” and he once opined that he had trouble listening to former vice president Dick Cheney “because of the blood that drips from his teeth.”

●Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat running for a House seat in Arizona. She’d be the first openly bisexual member of Congress. And she’s a hairstyle chameleon with as many do’s as Rihanna. Bangs, bobs, highlights — her political views might be firm, but her look sure isn’t.

●Danny Tarkanian, a Republican seeking a House seat in Nevada. He’s the son of legendary former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, though we don’t know whether he’ll adopt his dad’s signature sideline towel-chewing moves in Washington. Maybe during particularly nerve-racking votes?

●Mark Clayton, a Democrat running for Senate in Tennessee. Clayton’s association with tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories (NAFTA superhighway! FEMA prison camps!) has even Democrats distancing themselves from the floor installer they chose to face GOP Sen. Bob Corker.

●Linda McMahon, a Republican Senate candidate from Connecticut. She wasn’t just a desk jockey in the professional-wrestling empire she helped found with her family. She was often a part of the action in the ring. Career highlights include a performance in the 2001 epic “WrestleMania X-Seven,” in which she dealt a wicked groin kick to her husband, Vince .

●Joe Kennedy III, a Democrat running for the House in Massachusetts. Congress has been suffering a dearth of Kennedys since Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) declined to run for reelection in 2010. The storied political franchise may be back, and we hear that this scion, 31, has a catchy, ready-made sports-inspired nickname: JK3.

Ted Yoho, a Republican House candidate from Florida. By all other measures, he’s a pretty normal guy. But we happen to like the large-animal veterinarian's name, which would really liven up a roll call.

The next dream?

News flash?

CIA Director David Petraeus is reported to be (maybe) “a leading outside candidate” to be the next president of Princeton, the school’s newspaper reported Thursday.

Petraeus, a retired four-star general who’s been at the agency for only a year, would replace Princeton’s first female president, Shirley Tilghman, who announced her surprise departure Saturday, effective in June.

Chatter about his interest in the job, Princetonian News Editor Teddy Schleifer reports, began with a joking response in April to a question at a private, “off-the-record” gathering at Princeton’s Ivy Club, when someone asked whether he was thinking about running for president of the United States.

“I am running for president of Princeton,” he joked, as the audience laughed and applauded. Petraeus got a doctorate in international relations from the school.

He wasn’t kidding, “three individuals close to Petraeus” told the Princetonian. And there have been newspaper reports that Petraeus wants the job the job.

The Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon, a close friend of the CIA chief, told the paper that he’s had about five chats with Petraeus about the position. “I don’t think it was a complete throwaway line,” O’Hanlon said.

Alas, the timing could be awkward, O’Hanlon said, and Petraeus is fully committed to his current job. But O’Hanlon added that if President Obama loses the election, Petraeus might need new work.

Petraeus, through the agency, issued a statement saying he loves Princeton but, “as it currently stands, however, I am living the dream here at the CIA.” Strong, but not exactly Shermanesque.

And naturally things could change in just 40 days. That’s why great generals always prepare for the unexpected, keep the options open.

Count him in

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday that he intends to remain in the Obama Cabinet if there is a second term. “I’m in it for the long haul,” Duncan told reporters, including our colleague Lyndsey Layton. “I’m staying, unless the president gets sick of me.”

Duncan, highly regarded by members of Congress from both parties, made the remarks after addressing a roomful of education officials and economists at an event sponsored by the Hamilton Project, part of the Brookings Institution.

Duncan corrected one audience member who asked about his agenda if there is second Obama term.

When,” Duncan interjected, prompting laughter. “When there is a second term.”

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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