Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert
Jason Rapert is the Elmer Gantry of the Arkansas Legislature—a Brush Arbor Baptist preacher, bluegrass fiddler and proprietor of a putative African missionary effort that specializes in countries where homosexuality is a crime.
The Republican from Bigelow’s outrage at the “radical homosexual lobby” and “elitist judges” over the march of marriage equality knows no bounds. On his passion meter, that subject is up there with his views on President Obama (he wants him impeached), fracking (it’s seriously good) and abortion (uh-uh).
On that last issue, Rapert tried to pass a six-week abortion limit but settled for 12; it was immediately invalidated by a Republican federal judge who, unlike Rapert, still believes Roe v. Wade guides federal law.
The judge did keep in place a mandatory ultrasound for women, which will mean an invasive vaginal probe in some cases. Rapert believes the United States, its laws, and its people should be governed by God’s commandments. And it’s Rapert’s interpretation of the commandments, not those of different religious persuasions, that count. (Max Brantley, Arkansas Times)
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer
In 2010, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer affixed her signature to the infamous, immigrant-bashing legislation called Senate Bill 1070 and rode a wave of xenophobia to electoral triumph, a book deal, conservative accolades and liberal opprobrium. She did this despite massive goofs such as claiming that headless bodies were routinely found in the Arizona desert, blanking for several seconds during a TV debate with her gubernatorial rivals and claiming her dad died fighting the Nazis when he actually worked in a munitions depot during World War II and died 10 years after the war ended.
But who cares about that when there are “Messcans” to whoop on? Wahoo! Brewer spent millions in donations on appeals to a U.S. district court’s injunction against most of SB 1070. Then, in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court overthrew a large part of the statute as unconstitutional. Still, it had its intended effect.
More than 200,000 Hispanics fled the state because of SB 1070 and other anti-immigrant laws, according to one estimate. They took their purchasing power with them to other states, making Arizona’s recession even worse.
Brewer still plays the race card, even as a lame duck with zero political prospects. For instance, she stubbornly refuses to relent on her executive order denying driver’s licenses to so-called DREAMers who qualify for deferred action under a federal plan.
Recently, the governor has tried softening her image by pushing through a Medicaid expansion and overhauling Arizona’s inept Child Protective Services. Nevertheless, her political gravestone is destined to read, “Signed SB 1070.” (Stephen Lemons, Phoenix New Times)
Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh
Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is a smart, funny, shameless guy. How shameless is he? He’s so shameless he can introduce legislation that would help cops crack down on panhandling and still rationalize taking free trips to China and Azerbaijan, gifted to him because he’s a legislator.
Hey, what’s the good of being a lawmaker without a few perks? But the shamelessness doesn’t stop there. He also tried giving the private prison company GEO Group $1 million of state money during a time of scarce resources and great need among state agencies. Why? Kavanagh claimed GEO had given the state a sweet deal in the past and needed the dough—you know, more than schools and sick people and roads and all of that unnecessary stuff.
Then there’s his pandering to the far right, like his transgender-phobic “bathroom bill,” which, in its initial form, would have made it a felony for a tranny to use the “wrong” bathroom. That’s right—show your ID before you pee. No surprise that Kavanagh, an ex-cop from back East, is also down on the brown and was all for recalled former state senate president Russell Pearce’s Hispanic-hatin’ Senate Bill 1070, another “show me your papers” law.
The bathroom bill died, after universal outrage cowed the K-man. However, SB 1070 passed with his assistance. Kavanagh has now termed out in the state House and is trying to move over to the state Senate. But he has a primary challenger and a general election challenger to overcome before he can menace the halls of the Arizona Capitol yet again. (Stephen Lemons, Phoenix New Times)
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, Arizona
Congressman Paul Gosar stood beside flaming racist Cliven Bundy and Bundy’s band of armed militia members ready to battle the Bureau of Land Management in southern Nevada—all over the rancher’s refusal to pay his bills. But Gosar’s opportunistic move (a publicity stunt to score points with his militia-minded constituency) blew up in his face.
Bundy’s public pontification on how African-Americans were perhaps better off under slavery, along with his radical, violent rhetoric, was enough to convince several politicians who had aligned themselves with the rancher to issue statements blasting his atrocious views.
But not Gosar—at least not that anybody can tell from his website. Calls to his office to see if the congressman publicly renounced his Nevada pal weren’t returned.
Gosar’s hypocrisy is striking. When he offers thoughts about immigration, he blusters about America being “a nation of laws” and how all immigrants must “play by the rules and earn their way honestly.”
Apparently, obeying the law doesn’t apply to his rogue-rancher buddy, who was warned repeatedly about allowing his cattle to graze on restricted land and owes the feds about $1 million in unpaid grazing fees.
Thing is, Gosar is lucky to have his congressional seat, to which he was re-elected after Phoenix New Times reported that the leader in the race, border hawk Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, had been accused by his Mexican national ex-boyfriend of threatening to have him deported. (Monica Alonzo, Phoenix New Times)
Marionville Mayor Dan Clevenger, Missouri
On April 13, former KKK member Frazier Glenn Cross fatally shot three people outside a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement home in a Kansas City suburb. After his arrest, a handcuffed Cross yelled, “Heil Hitler!” from the back of a police car. Why anyone, much less a public figure, would subsequently speak in support of a racist, homicidal maniac is beyond comprehension, but Marionville Mayor Dan Clevenger did just that.
He told a local ABC affiliate reporter that, though he believed Cross should be executed, he also “kind of agreed” with, well, you know, racism. “There are some things that are going on in this country that are destroying us. We’ve got a false economy, and it’s—some of those corporations are run by Jews, because the names are there,” he said. “The people that run the Federal Reserve—they’re Jewish.” The reporter also discovered a letter to a local newspaper written by Clevenger in 2004 calling Cross a “friend” and warning readers that the “Jew-run medical industry ... made a few Jews rich by killin’ us off.”
After the story aired, residents of the southwest Missouri town demanded Clevenger resign. He initially refused but then relented after citizens aired their grievances at a packed and raucous city meeting. Afterward, Clevenger told reporters he was hurt by the town’s rejection. (Chad Garrison, Riverfront Times)
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel
Josh Mandel parlayed a place on the city council into a job as a state rep into a third gig that subjects far more people to his unrivaled brand of idiocy and backroom deals. A few things to know about him: When he ran against sitting Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown in 2012 for a chance at another promotion and a whole new zip code to terrorize, Mandel and his campaign followers were less than virtuous. Accusing Brown of shipping Buckeye jobs to China, Mandel could not be bothered with specific examples. “If that’s the level of specificity you’re looking for, you’re the reporters—you go do the grunt work,” he replied to journalists who had asked about the allegation.
Then he probably headed out to count freshly minted dollars pouring in from the Suarez Corporation. That fine workplace has been in the news since an investigation revealed Suarez founder and president Benjamin Suarez had directed 21 employees to donate to the Mandel campaign and other GOP causes—and then promised to reimburse them with company funds.
Mandel, naturally, is pleading ignorance, but prosecutors have dug up plenty of correspondence from the Mandel campaign asking for donations. And the very week all of that was happening, Mandel was writing letters on Suarez’s behalf for business dealings in California. That’s embarrassing enough, but it’s nothing compared to this: Mandel’s cousins penned an open letter blasting the then-senate-candidate for his opposition to gay marriage and gays openly serving in the military, saying, “Your discriminatory stance violates the core values of our family.” (Vince Grzegorek, Cleveland Scene)
Ohio State Rep. John Becker“This is just a personal view. I’m not a medical doctor.” So says Becker, who, after less than a year in Columbus has introduced a dozen bills, all of them nuttier than the last. His personal, nonmedical opinion, if you were wondering, pertained to HB 351, a bill that would have banned health care providers from covering abortions. And not just abortions in the sense we all know, but a hazy, very unscientific view of abortions that would include “drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.” He’s also after IUDs, which are proven to be, as Slate pointed out, among the most cost-effective and, ya know, effective forms of birth control.
Becker advocated the impeachment of a federal judge in Ohio who had overturned part of the state’s same-sex marriage ban. He also penned an open letter in the wake of gay marriage approval in Massachusetts advocating a constitutional amendment prohibiting the practice. (His next best solution was expelling Massachusetts from the union and removing a star from the flag.)
He has admitted to being a bit of a Don Quixote with his opinions, though we’re pretty sure Becker has never read Cervantes’ masterpiece. Otherwise, he would have read passages like “When equity could and should be upheld, do not apply the rigor of the law on the accused; the reputation of a rigorous judge is no better than a compassionate one” and then promptly proposed a bill to ban Man of La Mancha. (Vince Grzegorek, Cleveland Scene)
Former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina
For a brief moment, Jim DeMint was a GOP kingmaker. Thanks to him and his Senate Conservatives Fund, libertarian charlatans such as Marco Rubio in 2008—and Rand Paul and Mike Lee in 2010—won U.S. Senate seats. But then 2012 rolled around, and DeMint backed Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, Richard “God Wants Rape Babies” Mourdock and a host of other troglodyte true-believers, and, well, things didn’t turn out so well.
So DeMint did what sore losers almost always do—he took his super PAC home and got a cushy job at the Heritage Foundation with four years left in his term. Of course, this was just the latest bit of ass-hattery by the DeMinted One. A notorious homophobe, DeMint once said he could never vote for a gay president. Even worse, he said gays shouldn’t be allowed to teach in public schools; the same went for unwed heterosexual women engaging in premarital sex.
He also characterized African-Americans as government beneficiaries and stated that only a follower of Judeo-Christian beliefs could truly be an American. Oh, and on more than one occasion, he said that all—yes, all— of his fellow Capitol Hill comrades were greedy bastards on the take. No wonder the House and Senate rejoiced when DeMint left Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, the people of South Carolina continue to hail him as a hero. (Chris Haire, Charleston City Paper)
Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield
The Wikipedia page for Knoxville Republican Stacey Campfield features sections summarizing his years in the Tennessee House and the Tennessee Senate, followed by a section titled “Other Controversies.” To understand Campfield is to understand he does not have legislative efforts tainted by some controversies on the side. There are his legislative efforts, and then there are other controversies. He is the controversy.
Campfield outbreaks are recalled by Tennessee political observers like old “Friends” reruns. There’s “The One Where Stacey Gets Thrown Out of Congressman Jimmy Duncan’s Annual Barbecue,” “The One With the Luchador Mask,” “The One Where Stacey Explains That AIDS Came From ‘One Guy Screwing a Monkey’” and “The One Where Stacey Compares Obamacare to the Holocaust.”
Viewers who watched those episodes also enjoyed the time Campfield proposed cutting payments to families if their children did poorly in school. But perhaps his legacy achievement—his middle name could be “As Mentioned on Colbert”—was the introduction of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that proposed banning any discussion of homosexuality in schools. In a more recent iteration, it effectively would have required teachers to out their students.
A full accounting of Campfield’s antics would run the length of The Goldfinch, but here’s one more: After reporters reprinted some of the wingnuttier comments he had posted publicly, he threatened to take legal action against media outlets that quoted his blog.
After 10 years in the legislature, Campfield is being targeted by Republicans and Democrats alike this year. In an uncharacteristic move, Republican Governor Bill Haslam has even flirted with endorsing Campfield’s primary opponent. But caution might be in order. If he is struck down, might he become more powerful than we can possibly imagine? (Steven Hale, Nashville Scene)
Texas State Board of Education Member Ken Mercer
Texas is, as so many clichés note, a big place, so its decisions about what to include in its textbooks affect classrooms beyond the state’s borders. When former state education board member Cynthia Dunbar, a homeschooler, wrote a book that said the creation of public schools was “tyrannical” and public education was a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion,” non-Texans were understandably curious about what sort of yahoos had their fingers in the educational soup. Then there was Don McLeroy, the former board chairman who famously said, “Somebody’s gotta stand up to the experts,” as he attempted to push creationism into science textbooks.
That particular pair of Lone Star loons is off the board now, and with their departure the board has fallen out of the national headlines. In recent years, the state legislature has even clipped the board’s wings some. But don’t let that fool you into believing that the overseers of Texas schools have gone pink. They haven’t and won’t. Not with Ken Mercer still fighting the godly fight.
When his home city of San Antonio was adopting an ordinance banning LGBT discrimination last year, Mercer urged the city council to reject it. “Child molesters and sexual deviants will love this ordinance,” he said. Because, you know, gay equals child molester.
That point of view is merely grossly offensive and, frankly, not uncommon down South. For sheer, breathtaking dumbness, nothing tops his stunning 2011 refutation of evolution: “If your theory is right, all these species would get together and form a new species. Then where is the cat-dog or the rat-cat, whatever it be? They don’t come together. Cats go with cats, and dogs go with dogs.”
Take that, science. (Patrick Williams, Dallas Observer)