Let's Pretend To Care About Kansas And South Carolina! Your Senate Sunday Reaches Its End
Is it November 9 yet?
We did it! We've reached the final two U.S. Senate races of 2016! Next week, we'll have a big wrap-up of where some of our favorite races are, but first, let's clear Kansas and South Carolina, two safe Republican seats, off our desk. We There's not much doubt of the outcome in either very, very red state, but let's meet the players anyway.
In Kansas, Jerry Moran, yet another newcomer to the Senate in 2010's Teabag Tsunami, is seeking his second term, and barring the intervention of the Great and Powerful Oz, is likely to roll right over conservative-ish Democrat Patrick Wiesner, a tax attorney and CPA from Lawrence. No Democrat has won a Senate seat from Kansas since 1932, which may be some kind of record for single-party domination of U.S. Senate delegations, as far as we know (go ahead, commenters, surprise us!).
Moran is a fairly unremarkable rightwing conservative whose primary usefulness in Wonkette stories is that he gives us an excuse to trot out the "Get a Brain, Morans" photo one more time. And he's certainly done some stuff to earn it, like forgetting the difference between Yes and No in a voice vote on immigration reform, accidentally voting for the dreaded "amnesty" bill before remembering it wasn't Opposite Day on Bizarro World. He joined South Dakota Sen. John Thune in cosponsoring a bill to continue to allow child labor on farms, because it builds character and the bill had the words "preserving" and "family farms" in it, so terrible Washington Bureaucrats would keep their hands off the time-honored practice of letting kids get maimed by agricultural equipment. In a 2012 Senate Banking Committee hearing on how JP Morgan Chase managed to piss away $2 billion investing in worthless derivatives, Moran distinguished himself by giving CEO Jamie Dimon a loving tongue bath and encouraging him to set a good example for capitalist kids everywhere. And during the 2013 sequestration "crisis," Moran wasn't quite ready to vote to really fix anything but he did introduce a bill to transfer $2.5 million from the unnecessary operations of the Transportation Security Administration to restore tours of the White House, which Barack Obama had tyrannically cut. (Donald Trump magnanimously "offered" to donate the funds, too, yet another empty promise of charity he never intended to follow through on.) In 2014 Moran held up a vote on a bill aimed at curbing sexual assault in the military, as a protest against the Iran nuclear deal. Principled! Needless to say, he supports Donald Trump -- reluctantly, he says, but emails! Benghazi! -- and briefly bucked his party on allowing a confirmation vote for Merrick Garland, before threats of getting primaried brought him back into line.
So, how about this Patrick Wiesner guy? His website's "issues" page tells us he's a red-state Democrat: pro-choice, thinks gay homosexuals should marry whoever they want, knows climate change is real and supports expansion of wind energy in breezy Kansas (and likes nuclear power too, because carbon-free), and wants to move Gitmo prisoners to Ft. Leavenworth as long as they are tried in military tribunals. He's pushing his credentials as a true fiscal conservative, and says Republicans spend too profligately. In a move that should endear him to Kansans, he'd like to cut farm subsidies and expand the IRS's tax collection efforts, which he insists is unpopular but makes sense:
“That’s not a very popular thing to do but there are studies that show for every dollar the IRS invests, they get 12 bucks back. There is $350 billion each year not collected in taxes,” Wiesner said. “If we could collect 80 percent of that, that would be $280 billion a year less of a deficit and you don’t have to change any law. It would just be collecting what is owed.”
He also likes to make jokes about his own nerdiness, which we like, saying "I’m an accountant. We don’t have a sense of humor" and employing the brilliantly minimalist slogan "Choose A New Senator.” In other words, smart but doomed. That 1932 record looks like it's going to hold.
Over in South Carolina, incumbent Republican Tim Scott is likewise expected to waltz easily past Democrat Thomas Dixon in this year's only Senate race in which both the major-party candidates are African-Americans (This week's column may not have any Democrats with a real chance, but it's got some terrific trivia). Also, shut up, Libertarians, you are not a major party. Scott was appointed to serve out Jim DeMint's term when DeMint went off to run the Heritage Foundation in 2013, then won a special election for the seat in 2014. Scott has been a reliable conservative vote, and against all logic, supports Donald Trump, albeit with a certain degree of reluctance, because, he says, it's better to have a Republican -- any Republican -- in the White House than a Democrat. You may all sigh now. HuffPo ran a very sympathetic story about how Scott would really love to talk about fighting poverty (with the magic of the free market, so please sigh again) but all reporters want to ask him about is Trump's racism, thanks a whole lot. Scott made big news in July with a Senate speech about institutional racism, making him one of the few R's who even admits such a thing exists.
Nonetheless, as a conservative evangelical, he remains committed to the GOP, at least in its pre-Trump incarnation. We'll pray for him.
The Democrat with the thankless job of running against Scott is Thomas Dixon, a pastor and community activist with no electoral experience, but he seems like a great guy. He's a co-founder of an anti-crime coalition that works to bring law enforcement together with community leaders and youth, and to help former offenders reintegrate into their communities. He's also the Charleston coordinator of the Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment, a workers' rights group. Dixon is running on a fine traditional liberal agenda that emphasizes criminal justice reform, closing the gun purchase loophole that allowed the shooter in the Charleston massacre to get a gun, labor and voting rights, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, as well as protecting reproductive rights, expanding the Affordable Care Act to serve all Americans, and reforming police departments to serve and protect communities, not shoot them, please. He's everything we could want in a Democratic Senator, but he's running in the wrong damned state to get elected, sadly.
The race also includes a Libertarian of some sort, and a gent from the "American Party" named Mike "Rebel" Scarborough, who is actually nowhere near as crazy as his nickname might suggest. We bet there's a heck of a story behind that nickname, given that he's black, and on some positions at least, unapologetically progressive -- perhaps a clever ploy to get votes from unsuspecting neo-Confederates?
And holy crap, we have now made our way through all 34 of 2016's U.S. Senate races. If you'd like to study up for next week's test, you should be able to find the whole crowd of columns here.
Enjoy a Quixotic quest that will at least remind red states they aren't the boss of us? Go for it! Patrick Wiesner's contribution page is here, and Thomas Dixon's contribution page is over here. Needless to say, Yr Wonktette's Senate Sunday Electoral Survival Fund is always happy to receive your doubloons, florins, and DogeCoins, too, as long as you can convert 'em to US Dollars.