Opinion: The politics of sex (scandals)

So people, how do you think the sex scandal in Missouri will affect the Democrats’ attempt to take control of the Senate?

That was actually a test. Which part of the sentence got your attention? Sex or the fate of the November elections? I’ll bet that tells a lot about your character.

The House could change hands! If it does, do you think it will involve the Pennsylvania district where Republican Tim Murphy, a strong anti-abortion conservative, had to resign after he got caught urging his lover to have an abortion if she got pregnant? Or the district next door, where the former lover has announced she’s running against a Democratic incumbent?

Everything’s a tea leaf, simmering in sex. This week Linda Belcher, a Democrat, won a special election for the Kentucky state House of Representatives in a rural district that had previously been controlled by a Republican.

“The results here show that if we can win in this district we can win anywhere,” said the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

Well, there were a couple of details. Belcher had actually represented the district before, then lost in 2016 to Dan Johnson, a right-wing Republican whose Facebook posts included one depicting the Obamas as apes and another announcing: “Allah sucks. Mohammed sucks. Islam sucks.”

Johnson, who was also the bishop of an evangelical church, killed himself in December after he was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old parishioner. Belcher defeated his widow, who is refusing to concede, claiming “widespread voter fraud.”

The Missouri story has the advantage of being way less depressing. The sex appears to have been totally consensual until the point when the governor tied his naked lover to a piece of exercise equipment and took her picture.

Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, is a 43-year-old up-and-comer who was rumored to nurture presidential aspirations until the recent unpleasantness.

He admits that when he was gearing up to run for office in 2015, he had an affair with his hair stylist.

Greitens invited the woman to his home. At one point he took her into the exercise room for sex, taped her hands to some rings, blindfolded her and then … snapped her picture.

“He said, ‘You’re never going to mention my name,’” the woman recounted later. Otherwise, she said, the governor warned “there will be pictures of me everywhere.”

This week, a grand jury indicted Greitens for taking the picture “in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer.” Which turns out to be a felony.

The Republican-dominated Legislature is gearing up for inquiries, possibly with an eye to impeachment.

This story leaves those of us with a question. That is whether the scandal will have any effect on the upcoming Missouri Senate race, in which Sen. Claire McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable of all the Democrats running for re-election.

Her opponent, Attorney General Josh Hawley, has strong connections with Greitens.

Just this week Hawley attempted to link McCaskill with Harvey Weinstein, claiming that she gave Weinstein “a taxpayer-funded advertisement for his movie.” This would have been a meeting McCaskill had in 2014 with Philomena Lee, a woman whose attempts to find the baby she’d given up for adoption in her youth had been made into a Weinstein film.

So far we have a photos-of-naked-woman-taped-to-exercise-rings sex scandal on the Republican side and a meeting to talk about adoption issues for the Democrat.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Writes for The New York Times.

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