6 Scandal-Plagued Politicians Who Somehow Got Reelected
Remember the story about the governor of South Carolina who disappeared for several days — "hiking the Appalachian Trail" — to be with his Argentinian mistress Maria Belén Chapur? That's right, the one whose wife divorced him in 2010, and who caused the South Carolina GOP to heave a sigh of relief as his term ended in 2011 and he was replaced by Nikki Haley?.
Well, time heals all wounds — and by time I mean roughly 28 months — because Mark "Love Will Find a Way" Sanford has won back the congressional seat he used to hold prior to being governor of South Carolina.
Inexplicable as it may be, people make comebacks and, against all odds, manage to win again. Here's a few folks who make you want to text, "HTFDYGR?" (How The F#%k Did You Get Re-elected?):
1. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) (2012)
The son of the famous Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Jr. held Illinois' 2nd congressional seat in the House of Representatives for more than a decade, frequently beating challengers by a 70-point margin. Then, in the months leading up to the 2012 elections, he checked himself into the Mayo Clinic to be treated for bipolar disorder even as word came that he was being investigated for ethics violations. Despite the scandal and his total absence from the campaign, Jackson won re-election with 63% of the vote. He resigned office weeks later, though, and in 2013 pleaded guilty to misuse of campaign funds. Still, it's not like the voters rejected him. Lessons learned: You're not allowed to buy stuffed elk heads with campaign money, and never bet against the incumbent.
2. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) (2010)
Charlie Rangel has been a member of New York's delegation to the House of Representatives for, uh, gosh, it's been, um — well, let's just say "forever." Typically, he's gotten 90% of the vote, leaving opponents in the single digits. He was even chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. However, if the Grateful Dead taught us anything, it's that "New York's got the ways and means, but just won't let you be." In 2008 and the years following, a number of unflattering indiscretions came to light: using congressional stationary to solicit campaign donations from companies doing business with the committee; retaining four rent-stabilized apartments (how are you supposed to live in just one on a congressman's salary?); and failing to declare income from a rental villa in the Dominican Republic (please, the man has four apartments to keep track of, he's bound to forget something!). In 2010 — a bad year for his fellow Democrats — Rangel won a mere 80% of the vote, and soon afterwards he was censured by Congress ("censure" being Latin for, "we're letting you off the hook but try to act like this is a horrible punishment"). He's still in the House.
3. Rep. and Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) (2006)
In 1996, Jim Gibbons was elected to the House of Representatives as part of Nevada's delegation. Ten years later, witnessing his record of plagiarizing a speech, hiring an illegal immigrant as a domestic worker, and allegations of favoring donors and sexual assault (the latter still burning up the court system today), the voters of Nevada said, "Sure, we'll make him governor, what could go wrong?" But soon things went wrong, and Gibbons faced allegations of texting a "female friend" on a government phone, accepting illegal donations, claiming a residence to be agricultural land for tax purposes, and so forth. Gibbons tried to run again, but the GOP flaked out on him and instead nominated Brian Sandoval, now the current governor. Before he left office, Gibbons was named one of the country's worst governors and had his pelvis broken after being thrown by a horse. I guess that's how horses vote in Nevada?
4. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) (1970)
The younger brother to both President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy filled JFK's Senate seat after a 1962 special election. Tragically, JFK was assassinated the following year, and RFK met the same end in 1968. Then, one night in 1969, Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge into a tidal pool on the island of Chappaquiddick, killing his only passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy insists he tried to save Kopechne, but, despite telling his friends about it and swimming to Martha's Vineyard, he never got around to, you know, calling the police and alerting them to the accident. Kopechne's body was found the next morning, and Kennedy later pleaded guilty to leaving the scene. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1970, holding office for another 39 years until his death in 2009. The "Kennedy curse" seems to have taken more of a toll on Mary Jo than on Ted.
5. Sen. and VP Richard Nixon (R-Calif.) (1952)
Elected to the Senate as part of California's delegation in 1950, Richard Nixon was nominated to be General "Ike" Eisenhower's running mate in the 1952 presidential election. However, when accusations were made that Nixon was misappropriating campaign money and providing favors to wealthy donors, Nixon responded with the "Checkers" speech, a televised event seen by 60 million people. Nixon denied any impropriety, insisting the only gift he would be keeping was a cocker spaniel named "Checkers," and Eisenhower's ticket won the election. Though Nixon lost a presidential bid in 1960 to JFK, he won in 1968 and 1972, even going so far as to meet Elvis Presley and set up a recording studio in the Oval Office. Then a few business associates visited the Watergate hotel and, well, you know the rest. (Checkers was never implicated in the Watergate scandal. Lucky dog.)
6. Gov. William Langer (R-N.D.) (1936)
William Langer was elected governor of North Dakota in 1932, and quickly came under federal investigation for directing federal relief funds toward political parties (well, to his political party, anyway). In 1934, he was convicted of a felony, ruled ineligible to hold office, and replaced by the lieutenant governor (Langer briefly ignored the ruling, but eventually relented). After a flurry of trials, mistrials, and retrials, however, Langer was acquitted. He ran for governor again in 1936, won, and then went on to join North Dakota's delegation to the U.S. Senate in 1940. The Senate briefly refused to seat Langer — given his past "moral turpitude" — but eventually relented.