From an often mean-spirited presidential primary campaign to the offices of state and local government -- which have been reliable breeding grounds for all sorts of skullduggery -- some of the year's strangest tales have been criminal, but more were simply weird or profoundly dumb.
This rundown makes no mention of Donald Trump or anyone else in either party's presidential nominating contest. That ongoing psychodrama is and will remain front and center well into 2016. Here, though, we take a look back at the top 10 most kooky, kinky and downright crazy stories of the past 12 months.
Dean-Bailey is now a state representative and, according to her Twitter profile, the N.H. field director
for Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign. On Oct. 22, a grand jury indicted
Gibson, 28, on charges of voter suppression and attempted voter suppression.
9. A bloody backroom brawl in Birmingham
And the decision goes to....
According to a statement given to police by Mayor William Bell, City Councilor Marcus Lundy trapped him in a private room, repeatedly slamming the door shut when Bell tried to escape, before putting the mayor in a "chokehold." Reporters and witnesses could hear Bell yelling,
"no, no, no," as the altercation unfolded during a break in a Birmingham city council meeting. Police say the mayor emerged without serious injuries — confirmed after undergoing a CT scan and MRI at a local hospital — but he did show signs of bruising on his neck.
Lundy, who was charged with third-degree assault and had faced a year in prison, was also roughed up in the scuffle with the 66-year-old mayor. The city council emailed pictures showing his raw, bloody leg soon after the incident. The charge against him has since been dropped.
It remains unclear what the men were fighting over.
8. Dead man running
On Tuesday, March 3, 55-year-old Kevin Tarrant was elected to the selectboard of Underhill, Vermont. One problem: On Monday morning, the day before the voting began, the retired military pilot collapsed in his home and died.
No matter, Tarrant racked up 371 votes
, nearly tripling the total of his write-in rival. Town officials later explained they had not informed the public of the candidate's passing out of respect for his family and because a town meeting, held Monday night, took place in a local middle school gymnasium also used for voting. (They feared making an announcement on the premises would have broken state electioneering laws.)
A special election for the seat was held several days later.
7. In New York, money talks
In the space of two weeks, the two men who entered 2015 as New York's most powerful lawmakers were, in separate trials, convicted on federal corruption charges.
Pretty weird, right?
Actually, this kind of news hardly qualifies as earth-shattering in the Empire State.
The conviction of state senate majority leader Dean Skelos, whose son also was tried and found guilty alongside him, came shortly after that of Democrat Sheldon Silver, who was first elected to the state assembly in 1976 before being elevated to speaker more than two decades ago. He was found guilty in November of taking payments from a law firm that sought lower taxes on select pieces of New York City real estate and awarding state grants to a doctor who referred patients to Silver's law firm.
The cumulative effect — and remember, this rundown only covers the calendar year — has led U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the rising star prosecutor handling many of these cases, to declare the state capital a "cauldron of corruption."
Perhaps that's because no fewer than 29 state lawmakers have been convicted of an assortment of crimes and misdemeanors over the past 12 years.
6. The Vitter end
Scandal-plagued Louisiana Sen. David Vitter's doomed gubernatorial campaign was already staggering toward defeat when his opponent, Democrat John Bel Edwards, dropped what was perhaps the most explosive political ad of the year. It revived a years-old confession from Vitter, who in 2007 admitted
to having committed a "very serious sin" in connection with a prostitution ring.
The spot, called "The Choice," posed it this way: "John Bel Edwards, who answered our country's call and served as a Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division, or David Vitter, who answered a prostitute's call minutes after he skipped a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom."
A couple of weeks later, Louisiana voters made their "choice," electing Edwards
in a landslide. Vitter has since announced he will not seek re-election to the Senate.
5. When pigs fly
Human error at the city clerk's office in Flint, Michigan, last spring opened the barn door for "Giggles" the pig to launch a bid
for mayor. Local criminal defense lawyer Michael Ewing nominated his pet hog when a clerical blunder — candidates were given the wrong filing date, keeping four off the ballot — cleared the field.
Giggles' write-in campaign was gaining steam, but state officials eventually agreed on a fix that allowed the two-legged contenders onto a new ballot. Faced with a more competitive race, the official "Giggles the Pig for Flint Mayor" Facebook campaign folded in June, with this note:
"Sadly, we must announce that Giggles is withdrawing from the Flint mayoral race. The folks in the state capitol worked together and passed a law allowing the names of the candidates to be placed on the ballot — even though the candidate petitions were filed after the state deadline. It's no longer an even playing field, but in reality, that's a good thing."
4. You can't blackmail me, I blackmail myself!
Political sex scandals are a dime a dozen, but one Michigan lawmaker's attempt to keep his under wraps merits special attention. As details began to leak about state Rep. Todd Courser's affair with fellow lawmaker and tea party darling Rep. Cindy Gamrat, Courser sought to drown out the whispers with a blackmail attempt ... against himself.
Courser was alleged to have
asked an aide to send an email, written in fact by Courser, to fellow Republicans calling him a "bi-sexual porn addicted sex deviant" and labeling Gamrat a "tramp." (There are also bits about a "burner" phone and secret audio records.) The idea was to create the image of some kind of broad outside conspiracy.
Alas, the plot was an inside job. Courser resigned his seat and Gamrat was eventually expelled. Both lost subsequent attempts to reclaim their offices in November.
3. Aaron Schock-er
Only 33 years old, Illinois Republican Aaron Schock was beginning his fourth term in the House when an office visit from a Washington Post reporter
set off a chain of events that would lead to the rising star's stunning resignation and a federal corruption probe.
The bizarre story, in which Schock's aides scrambled to downplay his office's Downton Abbey-esque interior design — while the actual interior designer responsible for it offers a tour! — had the Beltway buzzing. But the laughter died down over the course of a few weeks, as additional reporting suggested Schock may have criminally mishandled
his travel, campaign and office spending.
although he has not been charged; the investigation is continuing.
2. A tragic tale in Missouri
On Feb. 26, state auditor Tom Schweich, a candidate for the GOP's 2016 Missouri gubernatorial nomination, committed suicide in his St. Louis home. It had been a rough primary campaign and almost immediately after Schweich's death, rumors began to surface that political opponents inside the state Republican Party had been mounting, as former Sen. Jack Danforth described in his eulogy
, a "whisper campaign" suggesting Schweich was Jewish. (He was not.)
"The only reason to go around saying that someone is Jewish is to make political profit from religious bigotry," Danforth said at the funeral. "Words do hurt. Words can kill."
His words were primarily aimed at Missouri GOP chairman John Hancock. The party leader admitted
to telling people that Schweich was Jewish, but denied any malice, calling it an honest mistake.
And that, it seemed at the time, would be the end of a painful episode.
But then, on March 27, almost exactly a month after Schweich died, the man who had announced his death, Schweich's spokesman, Spence Jackson, killed himself, In a note discovered by police, Jackson, 44, expressed concern
about being unemployed after his boss's death.
1. Meet Augustus Sol Invictus
The race to replace outgoing Florida senator and GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio (he's prohibited by state law from running for two offices) got a whole lot more interesting this fall, as Libertarian Party candidate Augustus Sol Invictus entered the contest.
The name, Latin for "majestic unconquered sun," is probably the least interesting thing about Invictus, whose rise caused the state Libertarian party leader to resign in protest
, accusing Invictus of supporting "a eugenics program" and "dismembering a goat in a ritualistic sacrifice."
The candidate confirmed the latter, explaining that it was part of a Thelema religious ceremony in which he also drank the goat's blood.
Invictus, who says he has been investigated by federal authorities in the past, believes they have him under constant surveillance.
But he's not too bothered about it.
"I guess it makes me feel flattered that they think I am a threat to the stability of the system," Invictus said
in October. "It makes me think one man can make a difference."