A pair of leading Democratic super PACs are engaging in a slate of California House races that are worrying the national party with a six-figure digital ad campaign in the coming weeks.
House Majority PAC and Priorities USA Action will spend $270,000 on the ads, which target four Republican candidates across a trio of southern California House races that Democrats view as prime pick-up opportunities in November.
The targets: Bob Huff and Shawn Nelson in CA-39, Scott Baugh in CA-48, and Rocky Chavez in CA-49.
The spending coincides with a nearly $450,000 ad buy from the DCCC last week, targeting the pair of Republicans in CA-39 to elevate the chances of their chosen candidate – Gil Cisneros, a former Navy officer who was selected for the DCCC’s Red to Blue list.
National Democrats are parachuting into the races because of concern over the outcome of California’s so-called jungle primaries, set for June 5. Candidates of all parties compete in an open primary, and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election.
Democrats’ enthusiasm for the 2018 midterms has boomeranged and produced a surge of candidates in these races who threaten to crowd each out and leave Republicans advancing to the general election. And party efforts to thin the field have produced severe tensions, threatening their prospects in some key races.
Patrick McHugh, executive director of Priorities USA Action, spoke to that concern in a statement.
“Southern California voters deserve to have all of the facts before they cast their ballots, especially with such a crowded field of candidates. Priorities and HMP will be communicating with voters online from now until primary day to help ensure Democratic success in these races,” he said.
“Voters have a right to know just what’s at stake given these Republican candidates’ troubling records,” added HMP director Charlie Kelly. “We’re proud to work with Priorities once again to maximize Democratic wins and hold Republicans accountable.”
The ads will run “on Facebook, YouTube and Google, as well as non-skippable video ads on the Fox News website and live streaming service,” according to the groups.
Democrats see these races as valuable pick-up opportunities because two of the seats are being left open by retiring members – Rep. Ed Royce in CA-39 and Rep. Darrell Issa in CA-49 – while the other features a vulnerable incumbent, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in CA-48.
Royce, who built strong support in his district over 13 terms, won re-election with 58% of the vote in 2016. But Hillary Clinton beat Trump in CA-39 with 51.1% of the vote to Trump’s 42.6%.
Issa, who served nine terms, narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger in 2016 – with less than a point margin – though Hillary Clinton edged Donald Trump 50.7% to 43.2% in the district.
HMP & Priorities aren’t the only major Democratic spending groups to engage in the crucial region. Women Vote! – the super PAC arm of Emily’s List – has spent over $1 million on ads and mailers boosting Sara Jacobs in CA-49.
CNN’s Maeve Reston contributed to this report.