Within the past year, several political candidates have gone to great lengths to prove they’re worthy of election — even if that means exaggerating on their resumes to get ahead.
From faking diplomas to spreading questionable details about their family backgrounds, many politicians have been accused of misleading their constituents in recent months. One recurring lie — about education — has struck many as especially disturbing.
In September, an American Working Families Party candidate was forced to quit an Oregon state legislative race after reports surfaced that she falsely claimed she possessed a bachelor’s degree.
A month earlier, a Florida state House candidate admitted to lying about her college degree and dropped out of the race.
Some of these false statements have caught up with the candidates, as in the latter case. However, some have continued to push through, despite controversies surrounding their campaigns.
Here’s a list of some aspiring lawmakers who have faced critical public scrutiny about their backgrounds.
Amanda La Bell, Oregon House District 54
Amanda La Bell reportedly dropped out of Oregon’s race for House District 54 following false claims about her college education.
The American Working Families Party nominee’s exit came shortly after The Bulletin reported La Bell, 41, lied on an official state Voters Pamphlet about earning a bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University in Georgia — a class C felony, the newspaper pointed out.
The report prompted La Bell to clarify what she called an “oversight” that occurred while her team scrambled to kick off her campaign.
“Regarding my college education, I attended Gulf Coast Community College for two years then transferred to Valdosta State University in the pursuit of my Bachelors of Arts in Music,” she told the paper. “However, after one semester at Valdosta State University, I had to withdraw and enter the workforce. Through the years I tried to re-enter college but, like many working families, I faced significant barriers to completing my degree.”
La Bell apologized for the error, which she said she didn’t catch “until it was too late to correct.”
Melissa Howard, Florida state House
A Republican Florida House candidate dropped out of the race in August after admitting to lying about having a college degree.
Melissa Howard agreed to serve 90 days of probation and completing 25 hours of community service to escape prosecution for misrepresenting her academic standing.
Weeks before Florida’s primary election, Howard posted a photo of herself on Facebook with what looked like a Miami University diploma in addition to college transcripts.
Shortly after, a lawyer for Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, noticed distinct differences between Howard’s alleged diploma and ones issued in 1996 — the year she claimed she graduated. The school later said in a statement she attended the school but never graduated.
Howard acknowledged that she didn’t graduate from the school before withdrawing her name from the race.
Julia Salazar, New York state Senate
Voters started to question the background of Julia Salazar, a Democratic socialist candidate for New York state Senate, after an article in Tablet revealed discrepancies in parts of her biography.
Salazar, 27, came under fire for telling reporters she was an immigrant from Colombia who struggled financially growing up when in reality she was born in Florida and had hundreds of thousands of dollars in a trust fund.
Her brother and her mother voiced concerns about statements she made regarding her childhood, specifically that she was born into a “working-class” family and her mom never graduated college.
“We were very much middle class. We had a house in Jupiter along the river, it was in a beautiful neighborhood,” her brother Alex told City & State. “I feel very strongly about my family and I want to tell the truth.”
Many also took issue with Salazar’s political and religious conversion during her years at Columbia University, where she transformed from an anti-abortion Christian Republican to a hard-left Jewish Democrat. One group revoked its endorsement after learning Salazar hadn’t graduated from Columbia, as she said on its survey.
Salazar said she “inadvertently misrepresented” her family’s history and chalked up some misleading statements to mistakes by staff.
The misleading information didn’t seem to damage her reputation too much, however. Salazar ended up winning the Democratic primary for a state Senate seat in Brooklyn on Sept. 13, defeating eight-term incumbent Sen. Martin Dilan.
Andy Kim, New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District
Democrat Andy Kim is running against incumbent Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur in a tight race for New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District. As the pair face off in a race many polls declare a toss-up, apparent exaggerations in Kim’s resume have come to light.
For instance, Kim boasted about working under both Republican and Democratic presidents — most recently serving as former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser.
But Kim didn’t have as much experience working with a Republican leader as he suggested. Technically he hasn’t been employed by a Republican president, Washington Post fact checkers first reported.
Kim’s LinkedIn page claims he worked as a conflict management specialist for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for “less than a year” during the Bush era in 2005. The position was entry level and he left after five months.
However, Zack Carroll, Kim’s campaign manager, stood by the message Kim spread in his campaign ad, in which he stated he “worked under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.”
“While working at USAID under the Bush administration, Andy served in the Africa bureau working on U.S. response to conflict-related crises across Africa, including national security concerns related to terrorism in Somalia and genocide and child soldiers concerns in Sudan/Uganda. Andy worked closely with officials from the Pentagon, State Department, and other national security departments to develop comprehensive foreign policy responses to these and other crises,” he said.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Lukas Mikelionis, Kaitlyn Schallhorn and The Associate Press contributed to this report.