Democratic groups fund third-party conservative plans to siphon votes from Republican candidates
Political groups aligned with the Democratic Party are spending hugely to boost longtime third-party candidates in must-win races across the country, as polls show Republicans gaining ground in the home stretch of the midterm elections. of 2022.
Democratic groups have emerged in recent weeks to support third-party candidates in high-profile contests in which vulnerable Democrats are struggling.
Linked to Democratic operatives and corporations, the groups are spending money to convince voters that distant third-party plans are the real « conservative » choice, efforts that can split the conservative vote and help secure a Democratic victory.
« It’s an old tactic and one that both parties have used, » said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist who has run several high-profile campaigns. « It doesn’t always work, but in a tight race, if you can take even a few hundred votes away from your opponent, it could be the difference between winning and losing. »
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In Kansas, an organization called the American Center is putting tens of thousands of dollars behind independent gubernatorial candidate Dennis Pyle, who in a recent poll was just 3% as the GOP and Democrats were well ahead of him and running neck and neck. The American Center strives to compare Pyle with GOP nominee Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
“Meet the conservative independent Dennis Pyle,” reads a recent digital advertisement sent by the group via text message. “He is running as an independent against RINO Derek Schmidt, who supports illegal immigrants who get tuition in the state of Kansas.
The American Center, which shares an address with a major Washington, D.C.-based law firm used by the Democratic Party, is also spending $92,000 on radio ads calling Pyle the « true conservative » in the gubernatorial race, intervening in the battle between Schmidt and incumbent Democratic Governor Laura Kelly.
Political strategists say the organization is trying to smash the GOP vote through misleading ads in hopes of securing a Democratic victory.
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Democrats are similarly using the tactic in Michigan’s 8th congressional district.
The Voter Protection Project (VPP), led by a former pollster for Senator Bernie Sanders, has spent nearly $160,000 in recent weeks promoting Libertarian Party candidate David Canny. The money was invested in digital ads and campaign mailings pitting Canny, a retired seafood retailer, against GOP candidate Paul Junge.
« Paul Junge made a career out of California politics, » said one of the group’s shippers. « Don’t let Paul Junge bring California values to Michigan. David [Canny] will stop unnecessary spending. »
Junge, a small businessman and lawyer, is running against Democratic five-term incumbent Representative Kildee. Most political predictors called the contest a coin toss. A poll taken over the summer revealed that Kildee had only gained three points over Junge.
VPP did not respond to requests for comment for this story. In recent years, the organization has raised millions to support Democratic candidates determined to expand voting rights and end voter suppression.
Republicans were quick to note the irony of the organization trumpeting democracy while using tactics some call « undemocratic. »
« The new Democratic playbook is to meddle in our election by bolstering the Libertarian candidate, » a Michigan Republican Party spokesperson said. « Confusing the public and attempting to suppress voters. »
The VPP is using the same tactic against Republicans in Kansas’ 3rd congressional district. The group even launched a website pitting GOP candidate Amanda Adkins against Libertarian candidate Steve Hohe.
« Career lobbyist and politician Amanda Adkins serves the interests of DC’s elites, » the site says. « Steve Hohe will: crack down on illegal immigration [and] eliminate the federal income tax and replace it with a flat tax. »
National Republicans are optimistic that Adkins, who ran for the Kansas City seat in 2020, can oust two-term Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids. To make sure that doesn’t happen, VPP has already spent over $261,000 on ads and direct mail attacking Adkins as insufficiently conservative.
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In addition to boosting third-party candidates, VPP is also running ads in a heated game in California calling Rep. David Valadao a traitor for voting to impeach former President Trump. The group’s move comes as Valadao battles Democrat Rudy Salas in the general election.
Using such tactics is nothing new for Democrats. Earlier this year, the party spent heavily to spur far-right Republicans in contested primaries from Arizona to Pennsylvania in a bid to keep the strongest candidates from running in the general election.