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Sen. Claire McCaskill got hacked. At least one person in Missouri isn’t worried about reports that Russian hackers tried to torpedo McCaskill’s 2018 re-election campaign in Missouri: Republican Jay Ashcroft, Missouri’s secretary of state. As in, the guy in charge of overseeing the state’s elections. Hackers working on behalf of a Russian intelligence agency sent McCaskill’s staffers phishing emails around August 2017, the Daily Beast reported Thursday. But there’s no proof that the Russians were successful. Still, their attempt makes McCaskill the first person publicly identified as a target in this year’s elections.
"In a sense, this is a whole lot of nothing," Ashcroft told the Springfield News-Leader Monday. "I couldn't even begin to tell you how many phishing or suspected phishing emails we get at our office." How comforting.
McCaskill, however, came out swinging (and pushed back against some of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on Russia).
"Russia continues to engage in cyber warfare against our democracy. I will continue to speak out and press to hold them accountable," she said in a statement. "While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this. I will not be intimidated. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Putin is a thug and a bully."
FYI: McCaskill is in for the political fight of her life as a Democratic incumbent in a state Trump won. On Monday, her spokesperson Meira Bernstein went after an ad — calling it a "shameful personal attack"— that surfaced accusations that McCaskill’s husband had "hit" his first wife.
"Bigfoot erotica" is now a campaign issue. Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat vying to snag Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, tweeted Sunday what may be one of the strangest political attacks in recent history: an accusation that her opponent, Republican Denver Riggleman, is "a devotee of Bigfoot erotica."
Riggleman told VICE News that the illustrations were all just part of one big, 14-year-long joke with his friends and that to take them seriously was "ridiculous" — even if he did happen to co-author a book that includes the claim, “Bigfoots like sex, too.”
Sasquatch aside, Cockburn and Riggleman’s race is a pivotal one. Republican Rep. Thomas Garrett, who previously held the seat, abruptly announced in May that he struggled with alcoholism and wouldn't seek reelection. Democrats are now gunning hard for the district, one of four in Virginia they’re devoted to flipping to help win back the House.
FYI: Besides being a journalist, Cockburn just so happens to be the mother of actress Olivia Wilde. (Her name is also pronounced "Co-burn.")
A Republican Senate hopeful disobeyed the president. Former state lawmaker Kelli Ward tweeted out a photo of herself standing beside Trump at Mar-a-Lago — even though Trump took the photo on the condition that Ward not share it, a White House official who witnessed the exchange told the Arizona Republic.
Ward’s tweet, which quotes Trump’s own Twitter account, carefully skirts the truth: Trump has not officially endorsed any candidate in her Senate race. But Ward needs every edge she can get. Her competitors are Rep. Martha McSally and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned after his conviction for criminal contempt charges related to racial profiling. (Arpaio is perhaps most infamous, however, for setting up a "tent city" jail.)
Two women have a shot at becoming the first female governor of Tennessee. Thursday will bring an end to a divisive and crowded Republican primary race for the governor’s mansion. The battle for Senate is largely assured — Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Gov. Phil Bredesen will likely be the Republican and Democratic picks, respectively. But the gubernatorial fight has gotten nasty, including an ad that depicted the candidates as squabbling kids.
Trump reportedly plans to avoid formally endorsing anybody in that race, but on Friday, Vice President Mike Pence conferred his blessing on Rep. Diane Black, one of two women out of the four Republican candidates who have a real chance at being GOP gubernatorial nominee.
Can Trump stay out of it? Pence’s endorsement arrived just one day after departing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who’s prevented by term limits from running again, asked the White House to not to get involved in the state’s gubernatorial primary. That could be a hard ask for Trump, who’s nosing his way into races, even when his help isn’t wanted — or beneficial.
Everything you wanted to know about "Bigfoot erotica" but were afraid to ask. In the hours after Cockburn’s claim went viral — because, of course it did — a cadre of journalists sprang up to explain that Sasquatch smut is real and to attack those who’d shame people who are into it.
- "Anyone thinking they’re doing some good in the world by telling people not to Google Bigfoot dick are not helping anyone. Liking a particular kink shouldn’t disqualify you from public office," Motherboard’s Samantha Cole writes. "They are also outing themselves as unaware that much of the internet is freaky as hell, and there’s nothing wrong with that."
- Rolling Stone highlighted some choice titles in cryptozoological erotica: "Namaste with Sasquatch," "Boffing Bigfoot," and "Bigfoot Did Me From Behind and I Liked It."
- Plus, lots of people will pay money to read about boning Bigfoot. Virginia Wade’s "Cum for Bigfoot," sold through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, made the author $30,000 a month at one point, according to the Daily Beast.
A democratic socialist stumping in the Heartland. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t even officially won her New York district yet, let alone taken a seat in Congress, but the democratic socialist is already trying to prove that progressive candidates can win across the country.
The Guardian’s Sarah Smarsh, who’s from Kansas, took a deep dive into why progressivism appeals to voters living in a land the rest of the nation often dismisses as “Trump country.” She writes:
"It’s one thing to push the Democratic party left in New York City. It is quite another to rabble-rouse for universal healthcare, wind energy and a livable wage in Charles Koch’s backyard. Doing so takes, my friends in the north-east might say, 'hutzpah.' Or, as my Kansas farmer grandpa might have said: 'That Jim is full of piss and vinegar.'"
FYI: Check out Broadly’s profile of Cori Bush, the Congressional candidate that Ocasio-Cortez stumped for in Missouri.
“I would love to have folks vote for me, but I want them to vote for me because I’m qualified, not necessarily because I’m a woman. However, I will say that the historic significance of this is great, because in the year 2020, Tennessee will celebrate the 100th year anniversary of being the state that give women nationally the right to vote by passing the [19th] Amendment. So we’re very proud of that heritage.”
— Tennessee Speaker of the House of Representatives Beth Harwell, who’s running as a Republican candidate for governor.
If Harwell wins Thursday’s primary, she could also become the first woman to serve as Tennessee’s governor. But recent polling isn’t in her favor — or in favor of the other woman in the race, Rep. Diane Black.
Businessman Bill Lee leads the Republican primary race with 26 percent of the vote, according to a poll published last week by the Tennessean. Randy Boyd, a former Tennessee Economic and Community Development commissioner, is in second place with 20 percent. Black and Harwell are bringing up the rear, with 19 and 16 percent each.
No women are expected to win the Democratic nomination for governor.
A grand total of 39 women have served as governors, but only Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oregon, Texas, and Washington have had more than one female governor, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Sila Calderon also served as Puerto Rico’s first, and only, female governor from 2001 to 2005.
This year, 36 states will pick new governors. Sixty-two women have so far filed to run, nearly doubling 1994’s record of 34. And 32 women remain in the running, including four women incumbents.
It’s official: Conservatives are obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez. In the month since she won her New York primary, her name has been dropped at least 291 times on television. (Fox News, in particular, mentioned her 119 times.) VICE News Tonight correspondent Evan McMorris-Santoro dug into how the 28-year-old became the latest liberal supervillain.
Ocasio-Cortez joined Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed for several rallies last weekend. If El-Sayed wins, he’d be the nation’s first Muslim governor — a fact neither side of the political aisle will let him forget, as VICE News Tonight correspondent Alexandra Jaffe found out.
Right now, El-Sayed’s campaign looks like a long shot. The state’s primaries are on Aug. 7, and if he wants to continue to the general election, he’ll have to best current Democratic favorite Gretchen Whitmer.
McCaskill might be the first candidate identified as the target of a hacking attempt in the 2018 elections, but West Virginia has been facing them on a "routine basis," Secretary of State Mac Warner told Jaffe. That’s why some of the most advanced cybersecurity prep in the country went down at a Holiday Inn in Morgantown this week.
Read about the risks facing West Virginia — and other small states — here.
Correction: Last week's newsletter misstated the number of women currently serving as governors. There are six.