‘Cocaine Mitch,’ a New Pence and the Swamp

Hey, it’s spring! Sun’s back! Time to start thinking about the elections!

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, New York Times

Hey, it’s spring! Sun’s back! Time to start thinking about the elections!

Stop whining. It’s your civic duty, and I promise some of these contests are not only extremely important but also weird enough to get you truly engaged.

The battles for control of the House and Senate are already underway. Next week we’ve got several big Republican primaries to pick candidates who’ll run against Democratic senators in red states.

The most interesting are in Indiana and — oh my God, West Virginia. The state where coal is king and one of the three top Republican contenders spent a year in jail after a mine he owned exploded, killing 29 people.

That would be Don Blankenship, whose other problems include a history of dumping coal waste into West Virginia waters and the fact that he actually seems to reside in Las Vegas.

“I pay probably more taxes than anybody on this stage to West Virginia,” Blankenship responded during a debate Tuesday. Which is not quite the same as saying you live there.

One of Blankenship’s Republican opponents, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, is running as a super-conservative. His wife is a lobbyist for large pharmaceutical companies, which makes things rather sticky when the subject turns to West Virginia’s massive opioid problem.

The third contender is Rep. Evan Jenkins, a chipper-looking former Democrat, who started out the debate by assuring the audience he’s been fighting “the swamp” in Washington.

Every Republican talks about draining the swamp.For nearly a year and a half, the country’s been run by a Republican president and a Republican Congress. Don’t you think there’d be more progress reports by now on how well the swamp-draining is going? Ads featuring pictures of sunny meadows reclaimed by Republican efforts to drive away greedy lobbyists and government officials who think more about their own pleasure than the people’s needs?

Tick ... tick ...

Blankenship has his own swamp eradication line and it is, at least, unique. He says Republicans can drain the you-know-what by getting rid of Mitch McConnell, whom he now refers to as “Cocaine Mitch.”

Say what? Well, here’s how he got there: McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is the secretary of transportation. Her father, James, an American citizen whom Blankenship refers to as “a wealthy Chinaperson,” is in the shipping business. Several years ago there was a report that cocaine had been found in one of the ships that belonged to James Chao’s company. In this political climate, that barely qualifies as an interesting factoid. But hey, “Cocaine Mitch” is a heck of an attention-getter.

The winner of this battle of the giants gets to run against Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the most threatened red-state Democrats. Another is Joe Donnelly of Indiana. In 2012, Donnelly ran against veteran Republican Sen. Richard Lugar in what was a super-long shot. Until primary voters dumped Lugar for a candidate who will always be remembered as the Guy Who Said God Wanted Rape Victims to Get Pregnant.

This time, none of the Indiana contenders appears to be particularly crazy, all things considered. One is a wealthy businessman without any history of coal mine disasters. The other two are current members of Congress, whom people are apparently having some trouble telling apart.

During a recent debate, each candidate tried to prove he was the most like Donald Trump. Rep. Todd Rokita, who had the bad luck to refer to Trump as “vulgar” when he was supporting Marco Rubio in 2016, is now desperately running ads promising to help the president drain the swamp.

And then there’s Rep. Luke Messer. A good way to remember him is that Messer keeps bragging that he’s working to get Trump nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pop Quiz: Last year, the highlight of a drive to get Trump the peace prize occurred when:

A) The president insisted the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was more deserving.

B) He quietly lobbied to get his tweets in the literature category.

C) The committee determined a letter nominating Trump was an apparent forgery.

Yeah, yeah, it’s C.

Let’s get back to Indiana. Guess who is running for Messer’s House seat? Mike Pence’s brother! He, too, is in a primary, but it’s hard to tell you a whole lot about it since Greg Pence refuses to take part in debates or talk with reporters.

Pence is another businessman, but the best thing you could say about his career is that he never exploded anything. He ran a chain of convenience stores until they, um, went bankrupt. At that point, his campaign explained, he resigned “in order to pursue other opportunities.” It was off to a top job at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, where he lasted only a couple of months.

Since Pence seems destined to win the nomination, we are not going to spend much time on his opponent, Jonathan Lamb, except to say he is the author of “Economics Is Like Sex.”

You can’t say this stuff isn’t interesting.

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