This close to November, you can hardly go an hour in Washington without hearing, talking, or seeing a push alert about the midterms. But the roaring speculation over whether a blue wave will overtake at least one chamber of Congress may have distracted from other races that are closer to home. In Virginia, Corey Stewart, the Republican nominee duking it out with Tim Kaine for a Senate seat, has made headlines for his coziness with white supremacists and Trump-knockoff tweets. His isn’t the only race to have taken unbelievable turns. Here’s a look at three of the weirdest elections in Virginia this year:
In July, it looked like voters would choose between three candidates for Virginia’s second congressional district, a coastal area that includes Virginia Beach and went to Trump in 2016: Republican Scott Taylor (former SEAL), Democrat Elaine Luria (former Navy commander), and independent candidate Shaun Brown, who eked onto the ballot with 1,030 valid signatures. But, it turned out, some of those signatures had been gathered by Taylor’s campaign, and of those, between one-half and one-third of them were false. Cue legislative drama. The Democratic Party of Virginia sued the state’s election officials and brought in a handwriting expert, five Taylor affiliates used their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, and a judge removed Brown from the ballot, citing “out-and-out fraud.” While Taylor fired his campaign manager and a campaign consultant, a criminal investigation by the Roanoke Commonwealth Attorney is ongoing. Taylor initially called the reports a “nothingburger,” but now he’s called DCCC ads about the scandal “defamatory” and foreshadowed legal action. But the district is rated by the Cook Political Report as a Republican toss-up, and a New York Times/Siena College poll gives Taylor a three-point edge.
You may know this one better as the “Bigfoot erotica race.” The seat opened up when Tom Garrett, a Freedom Caucus member, announced his retirement after one term in office, citing alcoholism. The move came on the heels of reports that he’d used congressional staffers like “gofers” to attend to personal errands. Now the candidates are former 60 Minutes producer and investigative journalist Leslie Cockburn (who happens to be actress Olivia Wilde’s mother and apparently once had Mick Jagger as a guest at a dinner party) and Denver Riggleman, a former Air Force intelligence officer and owner of Silverback Distillery (the tagline on its T-shirts: “Rule your nest…be an alpha”). Cockburn tweeted that Riggleman was a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica,” which sent the internet down a predictably hairy rabbit hole. For his part, Riggleman acknowledged being into Bigfoot—he co-wrote a book about a Bigfoot hunt but denies being a believer—but not in that way. The pornographic Bigfoot art on his Instagram, he explained to a Washington Post book critic, was an inside joke. That matter aside, there have also been Twitter spats over who knows Afghanistan issues better (he planned bombing raids on the country from an island in the Indian Ocean; she reported from Kabul). The less frivolous skeleton in the closet, though, is that Riggleman campaigned with Isaac Smith, a former ally of Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler. Smith has distanced himself from Kessler’s “embrace of white identity politics” and Riggleman wrote an op-ed denouncing white supremacists, but Virginia’s fifth district includes Charlottesville, where the memory of the 2017 rally’s violence hasn’t faded. The New York Times gave Cockburn a +1 edge, while the Cook Political Report ranks it as leaning Republican.
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors
Technically, this election for one of the nine seats on the board, which decides subjects like funding and zoning in Loudoun County, isn’t until 2019. But Juli Briskman, better known as the cyclist who flipped off the president’s motorcade, announced her candidacy for the Algonkian district seat (currently occupied by Republican Suzanne Volpe). Briskman’s Crowdpac page (current fundraising total: $10,126) touts her involvement in local public schools, swim teams, scout troops, and political campaigns, so civic engagement isn’t a shocking move. Still, the sequence of events—woman flips off the president as his motorcade leaves his golf course, goes viral, gets fired from her government consulting company, sues it, and runs for office—has an improbable, movie-worthy narrative arc.
Election Day is November 6; Virginians can find a polling station here.