Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday’s episode of Scandal. Read at your own risk!
As Scandal heads into the height of election season, expect the primaries to mirror what’s happening in the real world, down to a billionaire businessman vying for the Oval Office. Who will get your vote? Co-executive producer Mark Fish and Scandal researcher Jess Brownell offer up an exclusive sneak peek at the candidates’ campaign posters — plus some very useful inside intel. Weigh your options and then vote in our poll below!
Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young)
The Republican former First Lady is now Virginia’s junior U.S. senator, she has her sights set on being the country’s first female president.
Policies: As First Lady, Mellie championed child immunizations, hosted the first gay wedding on White House grounds, and was a vocal defender of the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms. In her time as Senator, Mellie has tackled sexual abuse in the military and filibustered a bill threatening the future of Planned Parenthood.
Ridiculous Résumé Fodder: Mellie placed fifth in the skeet shooting Junior World Championships.
Hollis Doyle (Gregg Henry)
The Republican oil tycoon’s candor and uncensored viewpoints make him a prime Donald Trump-like wild card.
Policies: Hollis is anti-immigration, anti-regulation, and anti-EPA. He’s pro-drilling, pro-second amendment, and, in general, pro anything that lines his pockets.
Ridiculous Résumé Fodder: Hollis has seven sons, one daughter, and five ex-wives
Susan Ross (Artemis Pebdani)
The relatively green Vice President may need to get her hands dirty in the race for the Republican nomination, especially with Elizabeth North (Portia de Rossi) on her side.
Policies: Many of Susan Ross’s policies have been informed by her personal life. As the daughter of a coal miner, she is pro-energy. As the widow of an Army lieutenant, she is a strong supporter of our troops and an outspoken advocate for military personnel who have been sexually abused. As a single mother, she’s a role model for many women who find her story inspiring. Susan was instrumental in drafting the Brandon Bill, a piece of legislation that fights for greater police accountability. We’ve also seen her rush to the defense of Planned Parenthood and speak out in favor of providing immigrants with a path to citizenship.
Ridiculous Résumé Fodder: Susan is an avid birdwatcher.
Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira)
The heroic Democrat Governor of Pennsylvania may be Cyrus Beene’s (Jeff Perry) ticket to returning to the White House.
Policies: Frankie passionately believes in providing a free college education to all Americans. He’s also pro-choice and a firm believer that it’s the government’s duty to protect the environment.
Ridiculous Résumé Fodder: Frankie plays guitar in a popular Philly alt-country band.
Edison Davis (Norm Lewis)
The Democratic U.S. Senator from Florida and Majority Leader in the Senate also happens to be Olivia Pope’s (Kerry Washington) former lover and almost-fiancé.
Policies: Edison is pro-gun-control and pro-choice. Officially, he’s pro-privacy; though as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, we’ve seen him sign off on domestic spying practices that have been Constitutionally questionable.
Ridiculous Résumé Fodder: Edison serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And now, to help you decide on which candidate to vote for, Fish answers some of our burning election questions:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Who would you consider to be the underdog?
MARK FISH: Frankie would have been an underdog had Cyrus Beene not orchestrated an opportunity for him to be a hero on national television. Many thought Hollis Doyle’s candidacy was a joke, only to be shocked when his unfiltered opinions caught on with voters who had grown sick of politics-as-usual. Susan Ross has a steep hill to climb, but with President Grant’s [Tony Goldwyn] endorsement, she’s heading into the primaries with a lot of goodwill behind her. Mellie has the most name recognition, but a lot of people find her cold, calculating, and overly ambitious. Edison is one of the most experienced and respected of the candidates, but even his name has been dragged through the mud thanks to his past associations with Olivia Pope. It’s truly anyone’s race to win.
Are there any moments you’re pulling or inspired by from the real-life election?
Scandal takes place in a universe where President Obama doesn’t exist. That means Edison Davis is trying to be the first African-American President and will face some of the same issues Obama faced when he ran. Mellie, like Hillary Clinton, is trying to become the first female President. Because she was First Lady before becoming a Senator, Mellie, like Hillary, is contending with a public that’s already made up its mind about her. Hollis’ candidacy would have seemed like a punchline were it not for the success of Trump’s candidacy, whose candor and unfiltered rhetoric is a lot like Hollis’s. Scandal’s election, like the real-life election, is one where outsiders are pitted against insiders. Hollis and Frankie, a businessman and governor, respectively, are getting a lot of traction they might not have gotten four years ago, in large part because they’ve never worked in Washington and voters seem to be responding to that favorably.
Are any of the candidates running a “clean” campaign?
This is Scandal, so even if candidates enter the race with good and noble intentions, they’re bound to end up in some dark corners making questionable and unexpected decisions.
Hollis knows how to rig an election. What’s to stop him this time around?
Absolutely nothing. The only thing working against him this time is that his opponents know exactly how he operates. In fact, some of them are pretty shady themselves and entirely capable of beating Hollis at his own dirty game.
Will Mellie also get her hands dirty in this election?
Mellie’s been waiting her entire life to be president, so you can expect her to take some pretty big risks if she thinks they’ll help her get into the Oval.
Hollis basically stole Mellie’s campaign ideas. How will she pay him back in kind?
Mellie and Olivia despise Hollis, so they’re far more likely to play dirty with him than they are with the other candidates. And because Hollis stole Mellie’s campaign ideas, you can expect her to relish his defeat more than anyone else’s. If she’s able to beat him, that is.
Even though Susan isn’t the brightest, should we not underestimate her?
Of all the candidates, Susan Ross may have the most innocence to lose. Will she be able to hold on to her strong moral compass? Or will she lose it as her desire to win becomes stronger? It’s hard to say. Especially since Susan’s got Elizabeth North in her corner, one of the least ethical schemers in Washington.
How will Olivia handle the fact that Edison is running?
Olivia believes in Edison and thinks he’ll make a great president. He defended her in the press at a time when it was unpopular to do so, and she feels she owes him her support. That said, this is Scandal, so expect Edison to have a few secrets up his sleeve, one of which will make Olivia see her old friend in a brand new light.
Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Before next week’s episode, vote in our election poll!