Democrats gained dozens of seats in — and majority control of — the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Four Republicans appear to have won despite a major cloud hanging over each due to apparent misconduct. The allegations are serious enough that they could face obstacles to completing their two-year terms.
And while it takes a two-thirds majority to expel a member of Congress — a very rare move that would require significant bipartisan support — each will begin the 116th Congress amid some uncertainty.
Two accused (and indicted) felons
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) appears to have been comfortably re-elected to a sixth term in Congress, even after running a vicious Islamophobic campaign against his (devoutly Christian) opponent, who was of Palestinian-Mexican descent. It is unclear how much of that sixth term he will be free to serve: He and his wife were indicted in August for allegedly embezzling campaign funds. His trial is set to begin later this month. Hunter has denied wrongdoing, but if convicted, he could be in jail for much longer than the two-year House term.
Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) is the projected winner of a fourth term, although his Democratic opponent has requested a recount, citing the roughly 1-percent margin between them. Collins was indicted in August on charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements to investigators. He had initially dropped his re-election bid — while denying the allegations — but changed his mind when it became apparent that his party had no easy path to replace him on the ballot. His trial is set for early 2020; if convicted, he could face a jail sentence of up to 150 years.
One white nationalist
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) narrowly eked out a majority to earn a fourth House term. But on the way, he managed to cozy up to neo-Nazis and white nationalists, lose the support of his party’s official campaign committee and several corporate PACs, and land in ethical hot water for smearing a high-school student. Last month, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) publicly denounced King’s virulent racism, calling his colleague’s “recent comments, actions, and retweets” of white supremacy “completely inappropriate.”
One accused sexual predator
Rep.-elect Steve Watkins (R-KS) won a close race for an open House seat. But his campaign was rocked in the final weeks when reports emerged of alleged sexual misconduct. An acquaintance told the Topeka Capital-Journal that, 12 years earlier, she had been in a room with Watkins when he locked the door and made unwanted sexual advances. Members of both parties have faced pressure to resign their Congressional seats in recent months due to similar sexual predation allegations.
Watkins also faced questions about whether he had lied about his credentials; a local party chairman expressed concern last month and promised that the GOP would “replace him in two years” if it turns out “that stuff’s true and he’s really not what he says he is.”