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Rick Robinson: Bad Candidates are an American Tradition

As a grumpy electorate heads to the polls on Tuesday, many voters believe – either way they vote – they are tossing away their vote on a horrible candidate. Calling this year’s choices our worst candidates for public office ever simply ignores American history. Want proof?  Okay, here are ten really bad candidates.

William Goebel – Kentucky Governor – 1899

Way before the Supreme Court ruled in the Bush/Gore election, a committee of the General Assembly invalidated enough votes in 1899 to declare William “the Kenton King” Goebel as Kentucky’s thirty-third governor. Of course, not before he had been assassinated and reportedly sworn in after he was actually dead. Goebel may have been the first Donald Trump based upon the fact he killed a political rival – banker John Sanford – in a duel initiated after Goebel labeled Sanford as “Gonorrhea John.”  

Wilbur Mills – U.S. Representative (AR – 2) – 1974

Less than one month before the election of 1974, a car carrying Rep. Mills – the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and former Presidential candidate – was pulled over by U.S. Park Police. As police approached the car, Argentinian stripper Fanne Foxe emerged from the back seat, ran and jumped into the Tidal Basin. Faced with the news that their Congressman had been cavorting with South American strippers, the voters of Arkansas returned him to Congress with 60 percent of the vote. A month later, he held a drunken press conference from Ms. Foxe’s dressing room at a strip club in Boston. Mills checked into a rehab facility and did not seek another term in Congress.

Anthony Weiner (a/k/a Carlos Danger) – Mayor, New York City – 2013

Really? Do I have to explain this one?

Gary Hart – President – 1988

After challenging reporters to “follow him around” in order to prove his marital fidelity, the Miami Herald did so and discovered Donna Rice staying at his D.C. townhouse. Pictures of Hart and Rice aboard the expensive yacht, Monkey Business surfaced and Hart’s presidential aspirations sunk like – well – an expensive yacht.     

William Rufus King – Vice President – 1852

Rufus King is the only Vice President to ever be sworn in on foreign soil. Selected to run for Vice President while ill with tuberculosis, King was at a hospital in Cuba when his running mate, President Franklin Pierce, was sworn in. Congress passed a special law allowing King to be sworn in outside America. He died shortly thereafter. King may best be remembered as the supposed gay lover of President James Buchanan – a couple Andrew Jackson regularly referred to as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy.”

Christine O’Donnel – U.S. Senate (DE) – 2010

Having beaten a popular Republican U.S. house member in a primary, Christine O’Donnel ran a campaign for U.S. Senate in Delaware where she: a) had to explain multiple college resume lies, b) was laughed at over her constitutional interpretation of church/state separation, and c) was forced to deny that she was a witch. Even with local covens backing up her story, she lost.

Grover Cleveland – President – 1884, 1888, and 1892

Cleveland ran for president three times, winning the popular vote on each occasion, but the presidency only twice. In the 1884 race, the unmarried Cleveland was forced to admit he had been paying support for a love-child, leading his political opposition to adopt the rally cry: “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?.”

Luckily for Cleveland, he ran against an even worse candidate …

James G. Blaine – President – 1876, 1880, and 1884

If you think the jingle used against Cleveland was catchy, here is what was used against Blaine: “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the Continental Liar from the State of Maine.”   

Apparently, jingles were the Twitter of 1884.

Jim Traficant – U.S. Representative (OH – 17) – 2002

After being expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives and in the midst of serving seven years in prison on federal corruption charges, the former Congressman ran in 2002 for his old seat as an independent. Prisoner #31213-060 ran again in 2010.

William Campbell Preston Breckinridge – US Representative (KY – 07) – 1894

Breckinridge was described in one book as “righteous as Moses come down from the mountain.” He was a moral crusader who lectured on the evils of sex. It turns out he had a mistress and three illegitimate kids. When, following the death of his wife, Breckinridge refused to marry his paramour, she sued him for breach of promise. She won and Breckinridge lost in a landslide.

So remember when you go to the polls on Tuesday, voting for bad candidates is a long-held American tradition. And as they say in Chicago: Vote Early. Vote Often.

For learn more about Rick Robinson and his award winning political thrillers, go to

Photo: William Goebel

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