A Democratic Super PAC is making a major, last-minute investment in a special House election in Pennsylvania, a sign of some party officials’ growing belief that Democrats might pull off a shock upset in the heart of Donald Trump country.
Patriot Majority PAC on Wednesday will begin airing TV ads in the southwest Pennsylvania district, part of a $250,000 buy that also includes digital media. The ads will run for the final two weeks before the March 13 election.
It is the second Democratic organization to start running ads this week on behalf of Democratic nominee Conor Lamb, joining the party-aligned group End Citizens United.
Patriot’s TV ads will run on cable and broadcast, attacking GOP nominee Rick Saccone over hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded perks he used while a state lawmaker. It equates the money it said Saccone used — $435,000 — to seven years’ worth of paychecks for the average resident in the 18th Congressional District, or the equivalent to three homes.
It then criticizes his salary state lawmaker salary of $87,000.
“Now Saccone wants a promotion to Congress,” the ad says. “Say ‘no’ to Harrisburg politician Rick Saccone.”
Officials with the group say the contrast between Lamb and Saccone is key to victory. Lamb and Saccone are both veterans of the armed services, but the Republican nominee has served in the state legislature since 2011.
“Conor Lamb is a Marine and former prosecutor, with a proven record of putting drug dealers behind bars, who will work to create good paying jobs, make healthcare more affordable, and protect Medicare and Social Security,” said Craig Varoga, president of Patriot Majority PAC and a Pittsburgh native. “Whereas Rick Saccone has allowed lobbyists to pay for lavish meals for himself and billed Pennsylvania taxpayers $435,172 in questionable expenses, all on top of an $87,180 annual salary. Case closed.”
Patriot Majority PAC started running digital ads in the district on Friday.
Polls show that the contest between Saccone and Lamb is razor tight despite Trump’s victory there by nearly 20 points in 2016. Republicans have scrambled to protect Saccone, with outside groups spending heavily on his behalf.
In part because of the amount of money Lamb himself has raised, Democratic groups have spent comparatively little on the race — though the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in February.
The committee, along with the Democratic Super PAC House Majority PAC, have declined to spend on Lamb’s behalf since then.
The congressional seat became vacant after the prior incumbent, Republican Tim Murphy, resigned in the wake of reports that he encouraged a former mistress to have an abortion.