May 11, 2022
Democrats are investing millions of dollars to meddle in Republican primaries for governor—either to elevate their preferred competitors in November or toweaken their biggest threats, reports NBC News.
Next week’s messy G.O.P. battle in Pennsylvania is the most blatant example. State Senator Doug Mastriano (R) is ahead in recent polls—and his would-be Democratic opponent wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way.
Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state attorney general running unopposed in his party’s primary for governor, is airing an ad that brandishes Mastriano’s conservative credentials, making sure to say a Mastriano victory is a win “for what Donald Trump stands for.” That’s all but an endorsement in a GOP primary, but it could hurt later in a race where even some Republicans have doubts about Mastriano’s electability.
That a Democrat is behind the ad underscores the lengths to which the party will go to engineer an easier general election in what’s expected to be a volatile environment this fall.
“Both public and private polling indicate that Doug Mastriano is poised to become the Republican nominee on May 17—and our campaign is prepared to start the general election now and make sure Pennsylvanians know his real record,” Shapiro spokesperson Will Simons said in a statement to NBC News.
Shapiro’s efforts mirror those by the Democratic Governors Association and affiliated groups that could hamstring Republicans in three other states currently led by Democrats.
As of Monday, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, the DGA had already spent $4 million on advertising in Illinois, where the organization is attacking Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. Backed by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, Irvin is seen by many as Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker’s toughest potential rival, but he must first win a crowded June 28 primary.
In Nevada, the group, A Stronger NV, which registered with the state using the DGA’s telephone number in Washington, D.C., already had spent $500,000 on ads, with at least another $111,000 reserved through the June 14 primary. There, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak and allies of his re-election bid are focused hard on Joe Lombardo—the Clark County sheriff who has Trump’s endorsement and is leading a crowded GOP field that includes former Sen. Dean Heller and retired professional boxer Joey Gilbert, who has the state party’s endorsement.
“If he doesn’t make it through the primary, then we’ve knocked out what is seen as the front-runner,” a Democrat familiar with the DGA strategy said of Lombardo.
And although the strategy doesn’t involve a primary, an Oregon group backed by DGA donations is preparing a campaign that will brand nonaffiliated gubernatorial hopeful Betsy Johnson—until recently a Democratic state senator— as a conservative.
The early interference amounts to what Democrats see as a viable path to keeping their statehouses blue as they enter a tumultuous campaign season during which inflation and gas prices are on the rise and President Joe Biden’s favorability is stubbornly low.
Of the four states where the DGA is playing defense, Pennsylvania and Nevada are expected to be the most competitive this fall, with Illinois and Oregon being harder lifts for Republicans. But, buoyed by a bloc of deep red counties downstate Illinois, well-funded Republicans have managed to win statewide. Whether the Democrats are pushing the right buttons to be victorious in the general elections remains to be seen.
Research contact: @NBCNews