Nearly three dozen former Democratic officials called Monday on party outfits to stop writing checks to boost pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries, calling the strategy “risky and unethical.”
The 35 ex-governors, senators and representatives said they “oppose any practice that intentionally elevates election deniers.”
“And as members of the Democratic Party, we are dismayed by the recent practice of Democratic organizations intervening in Republican primaries to promote candidates who deny the outcome of the last presidential election,” said the open letter on the Issue One website.
Democratic political committees and Democrat-aligned nonprofits in five states — California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania — have sunk nearly $44 million into primary advertising designed to promote “far-right candidates,” according to Open Secrets.
“These destructive primary tactics aim to elevate Republican candidates who Democrats hope they can more easily beat in November,” said the open letter. “But it is risky and unethical to promote any candidate whose campaign is based on eroding trust in our elections. We must stop this practice, and stop today.”
The signers included former Democratic Sens. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois; Gary Hart, Mark Udall and Tim Wirth of Colorado; Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.
Also signing were former Democratic Govs. James Blanchard of Michigan and Roy Romer of Colorado, as well as former Reps. Dick Gephardt of Missouri; Jane Harman of California, and Pat Schroeder of Colorado.
Certainly the parties have engaged in such political hijinks before, but the enormous Democratic spending on Republicans who have called into question the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential race has raised concerns on the left that the tactic may backfire.
“Our democracy is fragile, therefore we cannot tolerate political parties attempting to prop up candidates whose message is to erode our dedication to fair elections,” said the Democratic letter.
The tactic also undercuts the Democratic message that former President Donald Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud pose an “existential threat” to U.S. democracy.
Rep. Peter Meijer, Michigan Republican, one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Mr. Trump in 2020, blasted Democrats for “propping up my MAGA challenger,” former Trump official John Gibbs.
“You would think that the Democrats would look at John Gibbs and see the embodiment of what they say they most fear. That as patriots they would use every tool at their disposal to defeat him and similar candidates that they’ve said are an existential threat,” said Mr. Meijer in a Monday op-ed. “Instead they are funding Gibbs.”
The Democratic groups involved in boosting GOP candidates include the Senate Majority PAC, House Majority PAC, and Democratic Governors Association Action.
Despite the millions spent, the strategy has a mixed record. It worked in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, where Democrats got their preferred candidate in GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano, but not in California and Colorado.
In Colorado, the Senate Majority PAC spent $4 million to fund the committee promoting GOP state Sen. Ron Hanks in the June 28 primary. It wasn’t enough: Businessman Joe O’Dea, who was backed by the state’s top Republicans, won 54% to 45%.
Even so, Senate Majority PAC president J.B. Poersch characterized the group’s strategy as a success.
“Our efforts forced O’Dea to burn through cash, embrace Trump, and show his true colors as a rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell and a dangerous MAGA agenda that is totally out of step with the voters who will decide the general election in Colorado,” he told Colorado Politics.
Colorado Republican Party executive director Joe Jackson praised the Democratic letter and dinged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. Jared Polis for failing to speak out.
“It is a sad day for the Democrat Party when the only Democrats showing leadership are ones who served in the 1980s,” said Mr. Jackson in a Monday statement. “Michael Bennet and Jared Polis have both shamefully been silent on this election interference aimed at helping them. I appreciate both Governor Romer and Senator Hart doing the right thing and showing leadership, I just wish Bennet and Polis would follow their lead.”