Top 10 most shocking midterm election ads: Sibling betrayal, racial slurs and more

From racial slurs to literal dumpster fires, the campaign ads of the 2018 midterm elections have been anything but subtle or tame.

Siblings have been used to attack their brother’s political beliefs, a candidate pepper-sprayed himself in the face while advocating for more gun control, and another candidate compared President Trump to Usama bin Laden.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most shocking and cringe-worthy campaign ads of 2018.

Pepper spray performance

Failed Democratic House candidate Levi Tillemann said, “Washington needs more innovators and doers.” And he was so adamantly against arming teachers to prevent school shootings, he sought to prove pepper spray could be a suitable defense option -- by using himself as the test subject.

“I’m calling on Congress to stop talking past each other and try something new,” Tillemann said in a campaign ad. “Empower schools and teachers with non-lethal self-defense tools, like this can of pepper spray.”

“Pepper spray doesn’t cost much, and it can be safely stored in a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency cabinet. But it’s powerful and won’t accidentally kill a kid,” he said. “Trust me, this will stop anybody in their tracks.”

Tillemann closed his eyes as he was pepper-sprayed in the face. The video then shows him dunking his head in a bucket of liquid and spraying himself with a hose.

“It’s incredibly painful. And now I can’t see anything,” a squinting Tillemann said. “It’s just unbearable. It’s like lava in your eyes.”

Despite stepping up to the plate as a test subject for the effects of pepper spray, Tillemann ultimately lost the Democratic primary for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District to Jason Crow in the race against GOP incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman.

‘Blood is supposed to be thicker than water’

Running for re-election in Arizona, GOP Rep. Paul Gosar certainly couldn’t rely on his siblings for his campaign.

Six of Gosar’s brothers and sisters appeared in multiple campaign ads to encourage voters to pick Gosar’s Democratic opponent, David Brill.

“I think our brother has traded a lot of the values we had at our kitchen table,” his sister Joan Gosar said.

“We have to stand up for our good name,” brother David Gosar said. “This is not who we are.”

Gosar has said “it does sting” that his siblings came out against his re-election so publicly. But he also said they don’t live in Arizona and are “liberal Democrats who hate President Trump.”

“You can’t pick your family. We all have crazy aunts and relatives … and my family is no different,” Gosar said. “I hope they find peace in their hearts and let go [of] all the hate.”

He later said, “You know, blood is supposed to be thicker than water.”

Trump or bin Laden?

Dan Helmer compared Trump to Usama bin Laden in an ad during his quest for the Democratic nomination to Congress.

“After 9/11, the greatest threat to our democracy lived in a cave. Today, he lives in the White House,” Helmer said as the ad showed a video of bin Laden.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told Fox News the ad was “nothing short of reprehensible.”

Helmer unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District. State Sen. Jennifer Wexton won the primary to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock in the race Fox News has ranked as leaning Democrat.

Literal dumpster fire

Minnesota Senate hopeful Richard Painter’s campaign ad was lit.

“Some people see a dumpster fire and do nothing but watch the spectacle. Some are too scared to face the danger, or they think it will benefit them if they let it keep burning,” Painter, a former White House chief ethics counsel during President George W. Bush’s tenure, said in the ad with a dumpster ablaze behind him.

“There is an inferno raging in Washington. But here in the land of 10,000 lakes, we know how to put out a fire,” Painter said as water rained down on the dumpster.

The former Republican lost the Democratic primary to Tina Smith, who was appointed to serve in the Senate in January.

First kiss

State Sen. Rich Madaleno really wanted the opportunity to take on Trump as Maryland’s next governor. And he tried to stick it to the president by kissing his husband in a campaign ad.

Madaleno, who later lost the Democratic primary to former NAACP President Ben Jealous, said he “already infuriated” Trump by protecting Planned Parenthood, helped ban “assault weapons” and promoted public schools over vouchers as a state senator.

“And what’s the No. 1 way I piss off Donald Trump and the Republicans?” Madaleno asked before sharing a kiss with his husband.

The LGBTQ group Victory Fund said it believed the ad to be the first campaign spot with a same-sex couple kissing. The ad was first aired in the Washington area on “Fox & Friends.”

Fox News has ranked the Maryland gubernatorial race as remaining likely Republican.

‘Cocaine Mitch’

West Virginia Senate hopeful Don Blankenship was no fan of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- despite being a fellow Republican.

In a campaign ad, Blankenship accused McConnell, R-Ky., of creating “millions of jobs for China people.”

“By doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars,” Blankenship said.

“The war to drain the swamp and create jobs for West Virginia people has begun. I will beat [Sen.] Joe Manchin and ditch ‘Cocaine Mitch’ for the sake of the kids,” he continued.

McConnell is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan and whose parents are Chinese. Blankenship previously referred to McConnell’s father-in-law, shipping magnate James S.C. Chao as a “wealthy China person” but has denied he meant it as a racial slur.

The “Cocaine Mitch” nickname refers to a 2014 magazine article that alleges drugs were found aboard a commercial cargo ship owned by the Chao family. The allegation did not directly involve McConnell.

A polarizing candidate, Blankenship lost the GOP primary to state Attorney Gen. Patrick Morrisey in the race against Manchin, a vulnerable Democrat. Fox News has ranked the race as leaning Democrat.

‘I want to be your …’

A Minnesota state House candidate used a racial slur in a campaign video this year -- and he didn’t shy away from the decision to do so.

“I want to be your state representative. I want to be your public servant. And I want to be your n-----,” Kyle Greene, an independent, said in his first campaign commercial, which was posted on social media.

Greene, whose platform is focused on judicial reform, is running against incumbent Republican Rep. Dean Urdahl in Congressional District 18A. His ad stressed “judicial reform” in red letters at the bottom of the screen, though he didn’t discuss his plan during the 30-second spot.

Greene told The Star Tribune he used the slur to have voters focus on “the real issues at hand.”

“We need to unify as a society, and we need to stop dealing with trivial matters. The word … is part of the American history, regardless of the race,” Greene said. “It’s part of my history being African-American, white and Cherokee Indian.”


Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp triggered an uproar with a campaign ad that showed him pointing a shotgun at a young man who supposedly wanted to date his daughter.

Kemp, a Republican, pointed the gun at a nervous-looking young man in the ad and asked him what two things he must know to date one of his daughters.

“Respect. And a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment, sir,” the man said.

In another ad, Kemp said, “I got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself.”

“I’m so conservative, I blow up government spending,” Kemp also said as a fake bomb explodes in the background.

Kemp faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in the race to be the next Georgia governor. Fox News has ranked the race a toss-up.

‘Shady’ for strippers

A Republican super PAC went after a Democratic congressional hopeful for his apparent “strong history” with strip clubs.

The ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund (CFL) pointed to Democrat Paul Davis’ involvement with a club that was raided in the late 1990s as well as legislation he voted on as a state lawmaker.

“What’s worse than getting caught at a strip club during a drug bust? Ask Paul Davis,” the CFL ad said.

Davis is a former state representative who in the late 1990s was caught at a strip club in Coffeyville, Kansas, during a police raid. He was 26 years old at the time and has maintained he was taken to the establishment by his boss. He was not charged with any crime in the raid.

Additionally, the ad attacks Davis for how he voted on legislation pertaining to “sexually-oriented businesses.”

Fox News has ranked the race between Davis and Republican candidate Steve Watkins a toss-up.

Best foot forward

A Republican congressional candidate compared her opponent to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- by depicting him in red heels struggling to walk down a sidewalk in a campaign ad.

The ad for Elizabeth Heng hit incumbent Democratic Rep. Jim Costa for supporting so-called sanctuary cities, gun control and the controversial California bullet train.

“Nancy Pelosi?” a man asked in the ad as the camera focuses on red heels.

“Yep, but also surprisingly Jim Costa,” the voiceover said as the video reveals an older man in a white shirt, jean shorts and black briefcase wobbling down a sidewalk in the heels.

“After a lifetime in politics, Jim’s no longer one of us. Costa’s walking in Nancy Pelosi’s shoes,” the ad said.

Costa and Heng are locked in a fierce race for California’s 16th Congressional District. She earned more than 47 percent of the vote in the state’s open primary earlier this year compared to Costa’s 53 percent.

Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain, Lukas Mikelionis, Adam Shaw and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.