House Democrats’ main super PAC is quietly attempting to boost a hardline Republican candidate in a key House race, the latest attempt by national Democrats to avoid disaster in California.
The House Majority PAC has sent out mail pieces to Republican and independent voters in retiring Rep. Ed Royce’s (R-CA) district tying Phil Liberatore to President Trump, a clear move to raise the underfunded Liberatore’s name recognition in the district and try to siphon off votes from other GOP candidates to him. Images of the mail pieces were obtained by TPM from a source in-district.
The mailers advertise that Liberatore and Trump “want a bigger border wall,” oppose sanctuary cities (a major flashpoint in California, where Republicans are outraged Democratic lawmakers have declared it a sanctuary state), and tout his endorsement from controversial former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R), a hero on the anti-immigrant right. While the ad is framed as an attack, it’s clear the goal is to boost him at other Republicans’ expense.
The effort is just one of many efforts from Democrats to avoid the disastrous scenario of failing to get a single candidate into the general election in a state where they have a number of key pickup opportunities.
Because of California’s unusual jungle primary system, the top two candidates in the state’s June 5 primary will advance to the November general election regardless of party. In the past, that’s occasionally led to Democrats being locked out as two Republicans advance in some key races — and it’s an even bigger risk this year given how many competitive races there are and how many Democrats are running for the seats.
In this race, Democrats have six candidates including three spending real money, and are concerned that they’re splitting up the Democratic share of the vote enough that two Republicans could sneak through to the general election, guaranteeing a GOP congressman in a district Hillary Clinton won by nine percentage points in 2016.
“Southern Californians have a right to know the facts about the Republican candidates running in these critical Congressional races particularly given the complicated jungle primaries and crowded fields of candidates,” House Majority PAC spokesman Jeb Fain told TPM. “We’re making sure a broad range of voters know the facts about several Republicans in CA-39, including Phil Liberatore, who is far too conservative for California, and we’re working to ensure people in these important districts have the opportunity to vote for a Democrat in November.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already been spending heavily on TV ads to try to knock down Shawn Nelson and Bob Huff, two of the other Republicans in the race, in order to make sure only GOP front-runner Young Kim makes it through. This HMP mail piece is a further effort to make sure that Huff and Nelson don’t join her in the general election by trying to subtly move voters from them to the lesser-known Liberatore.
Democrats are hopeful they can get one of their candidates through, with self-funding Gil Cisneros (D) and Andy Thorburn (D) leading the pack but in danger of falling behind Huff or Nelson.