This week brought us an exceptional number of head-smacking incidents involving powerful politicians (and those who hope to be) doing things to aggravate or insult entire swaths of voters — just three weeks before the midterm elections no less. The Fix looks at a few moments that surely caused everything from mild campaign staff heartburn to worries that long-term detrimental precedents had been set.
Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp and black voters
Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate has been under significant criticism after the Associated Press reported that 53,000 voters — most of whom are black — had their registrations put on hold because they don’t pass the state’s “exact match” system. As Georgia’s secretary of state, Kemp oversees the registration process.
But the latest story related to voter suppression in Georgia came after Kemp’s official secretary of state website featured an informational video informing residents how to vote. In the video, a white boy was allowed to vote early while a black girl was not — for lacking voter identification.
The visual was an unhelpful reminder of concerns over whether Republicans were trying to suppress minority voters — presumably Democratic votes — perhaps especially those of black women, who are expected to come out in droves to support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who has the potential to be the nation’s first black female governor.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.) and Native Americans
The Massachusetts Democrat hoped to settle the debate with President Trump and others about her Native American heritage by releasing a DNA report showing that a distant ancestor actually was Native American. The move was interpreted as an attempt to put the story behind her — and garner a million-dollar donation from Trump to a nonprofit helping Native American women — before Warren officially launches her 2020 presidential bid. But the lawmaker was mocked by many, especially conservatives, and criticized by some Native Americans for attempting to claim a community that does not claim her and that she has not advocated for on Capitol Hill.
“There’s a whole host of things we can get into: education, health care, all of these things that need to be addressed, but we can’t get to them when you have someone like Elizabeth Warren going out there and trying to make Indian Country a political issue,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), a member of the Cherokee tribe, told the Fix.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D.-N.D.) and female survivors
A few weeks after voting against Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in the wake of sexual assault allegations, the North Dakota Democrat listed, without permission, the names of women who survived sexual assault and domestic violence in a newspaper ad criticizing comments made by her opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer.
Heitkamp, who was already trailing Cramer in her bid for reelection, has been counting on women disgusted with Trump and Kavanaugh — and Cramer’s defense of them — to be victorious on Election Day. She apologized for the mistake, but some women in her state believe the damage can’t be undone.
Lexi Zhorela, a Bismarck resident included on the list of 127 women, wrote on Facebook that she was “beyond FURIOUS.”
Many of the women “didn’t want our name spread across the news for everyone to see,” she wrote explaining that those listed risk retribution from the men they’ve accused of sexual assault or domestic violence.
Rep. French Hill (R.-Ark.) and black voters
The Arkansas Republican hopes to maintain his seat in the state’s most urban district, but a super PAC’s effort to help him win black voters has drawn more negative attention to his campaign than positive. The group, Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, created a radio ad featuring two black women suggesting that if Democrats take over the House, they would treat black men accused of sexual assault worse than Kavanaugh, an affluent white man, was treated by his critics.
Hill distanced himself from the ad, calling it “appalling,” but to some black voters, it was the latest example of what some on the right will do to insert identity politics into the midterm elections in the worst way.