The Democrats’ dreams of retaking the Senate this election year are dwindling after a pair of scandals have erupted. Chris Janicek, the Democratic nominee running against Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse, and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who is hoping to unseat Republican Senator Cory Gardner, find themselves embroiled in a firestorm just months away from Election Day.
According to Just the News, Janicek is involved in a text message scandal that has resulted in calls from state Democrats for him to withdraw from the race. “Do you think the campaign should spend some money on getting her laid?” Janicek reportedly wrote in a group text, which referred to one of his campaign staffers. “It will probably take three guys.” The texts then explicitly describe a hypothetical group sex scene including the female former staffer.
A story from The New York Times quotes part of the woman’s response to Janicek’s comments. To date, she has chosen to remain anonymous. “As a woman who stands up and beside other women, I can’t just pretend this didn’t happen,” she said. “I cannot support your campaign after what you said. I have integrity, morals and values but, most of all I have self respect for myself and fellow women.”
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The Nebraska Democratic Party called for Janicek to withdraw from the race last week, then announced that it has withdrawn its support for his campaign after he refused to withdraw. Jane Kleeb, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said in a statement last week, “Our Democratic Party has no tolerance for sexual harassment.” CNN reports that Janicek disputes the characterization that the group text conversation can be considered “sexual harassment” because he is an openly gay man.
The New York Times also recently reported that Janicek is additionally accused of using a racist slur at a party 20 years ago. Peggy Jones, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha, told the NYT that at a mutual friend’s party in Omaha about 20 years ago, she remembered clearly that Janicek had called her a “niglet”—a slur she’d never heard before. Jones, who is black, said that while she and Janicek had mutual friends, they’d never interacted before that remark.
The next Democrat nightmare is unfolding in Colorado where Republican Cory Gardner is fighting to keep his Senate seat. Failed 2020 candidate John Hickenlooper is trying to unseat the very vulnerable Cory Gardner, but he just ran into a massive snag that will likely knock him out of the June 30th primary. Even if it doesn’t, it could take him out in head-to-head interactions with Gardner in November.
Hickenlooper is getting blasted after the Colorado Ethics Commission revealed that he accepted “free travel” when he was governor of the state and violated ethics laws. Hickenlooper testified before the commission after the free travel was discovered. Prior to that, he did not comply with a subpoena. The commission ultimately found him guilty of two violations.
Republicans now have a 53-45 Senate majority, with the two other senators Independents who caucus with the Democrats. The Democratic Party would have to gain at least three seats in November to take control of the upper chamber. As a result, every potential win is critical—particularly Colorado, where Democrats had targeted a vulnerable Gardner for defeat.
John Solomon writes in a piece for Just The News that Democrats will have a more difficult time stopping Sasse from winning a second term. Despite him occasionally being critical of President Trump, the president has already endorsed Sasse—a bona fide conservative whose race the Cook Political Report rates “Solid Republican.”
The Democrats need every single Senate seat they can get if they hope to overtake Republicans, so the likelihood of losing these two seats they thought they could win is a devastating blow to their plans. The climb was uphill for Democrats before these two scandals came out. Now, it’s like trying to run in quicksand.