Three candidates could be accused of sexual and domestic violence by Republicans in crucial midterm Senate elections next year. The party’s senators don’t seem to mind.
Missouri’s former Governor had an affair. Eric Greitens claimed that he sexually assaulted and blackmailed his wife with nude photographs. The estranged wife of Army veteran Sean Parnell, the leading Republican candidate in Pennsylvania, twice took out temporary protection-from-abuse orders against him. Herschel’s ex-wife, who is currently the top-runner in the GOP nomination for Georgia, was also a football legend. In divorce records that he was physically abusive and threatened to murder her.
Walker and Parnell received the endorsement from former President Donald Trump. It is still seen as an important step in GOP primary politics. More than 20 women have accused Trump in sexual misconduct including harassment, assault and humiliation. Greitens is enthusiastically seeking the president’s backing.
Some GOP strategists are worried that these accusations will harm the party’s efforts to win back suburban women, who have been flocking to the Democratic Party ever since Trump took office. In particular, Pennsylvania’s and Georgia’s races are highly competitive and will be crucial in deciding which party takes control of the Senate.
Republican senators however, mostly ignored concerns over the three candidates and their alleged offences in interviews with HuffPost.
“Americans are pretty forgiving,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said when asked about the allegations against Walker. “I don’t think that’s a deal breaker. I actually think he’s quite a good candidate.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), herself a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse, acknowledged Walker “had some baggage there” but added the former football star had “addressed it.”
“Their constituencies will decide if they’re a worthy candidate and then move forward,” she said. “We’ll take it up after we get through those primaries.”
The resignation of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., was stoutly avoided when asked about Parnell’s accusations.
“I’m not going to get into the merits of the respective candidates,” he said. “I just haven’t made a decision.”
And after repeatedly raising concerns about Walker’s candidacy and his ability to defeat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, McConnell last week changed his tune and signaled Walker was an acceptable candidate a few days before Trump rallied with the Georgian.
“I think there’s every indication he’s going to be a good candidate,” McConnell Tell Politico
But D.C. Republicans’ acquiescence doesn’t mean other GOP candidates back home won’t bring up the allegations. In Pennsylvania, a super PAC supporting Jeff Bartos ― a real estate developer challenging Parnell for the Republican nomination ― has Advertisements that were aired attacking him over the protective order requests and comments he made on Fox News belittling women (Parnell’s campaign has said the comments were made as part of a segment in which panelists took intentionally absurd positions.)
“Sexist rhetoric. 911 calls. Restraining orders,” a female narrator says in the ad. “The real record of Sean Parnell.”
There is little information available about Parnell’s accusations. They are part of Laurie’s messy and ongoing divorce proceedings. A judge granted both of the protection-from-abuse orders his wife sought and, in both cases, police asked Parnell to relinquish the firearms he owned. Parnells agreed to terminate the order in the first instance. In the second case, a judge ruled against Laurie Parnell’s request to make the order permanent.
Still, the campaigns for Bartos and a third candidate, former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands, have both argued the allegations make Parnell “unelectable.” That hasn’t stopped Parnell from continuing to collect endorsements since the allegations emerged; both Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) In recent days, Parnell’s endorsements have been received by both Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas).
Walker’s and Greitens’ accusations are far more concerning. Walker’s ex-wife, who cited “physically abusive behavior” in her request for a divorce in 2001, told ABC News in 2008 that he once pointed a loaded gun at her head and told her he would “blow your f’ing brains out.” In a filing for a protective order that was granted in 2005, his ex-wife’s sister said Walker directly threatened to shoot both his ex-wife and her new boyfriend.
In a 2008 book, “Breaking Free,” Walker admits he was plagued by violent urges for much of his life, which he blames on dissociative identity disorder. His Christian faith and therapy helped him reconcile his many personalities.
Walker is considered a strong favorite for the GOP nomination in order to challenge Warnock. Warnock took office Jan. 20, after a runoff. Gary Black, the State Agriculture Commissioner is running with support from many GOP local officials including the former governor. Nathan Deal, former Rep. Doug Collins.
Greitens was forced to resign as governor after being accused of using photos as blackmail. However, he denied the accusations and all charges were dropped against him.
Despite Pennsylvania and Georgia being key pick-up opportunities for Republicans, Democrats and Republicans, Missouri’s race is believed to favor the GOP, after Trump won it by 15 points in 2020. Greitens, the most well-known Republican candidate in the primary field is feared by some party members as he may force them to spend millions protecting a safe seat next year.
At the moment, Republicans have watched Biden’s approval ratings with independents plummet and are bullish about their chances in key swing states. The Senate is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking votes giving Democrats control of the chamber.