By David Nir / Daily Kos
As they previously had in California’s 39th District, the DCCC (aka D-Trip) is getting involved in the 48th and 49th Districts as well, running TV and radio ads to make sure Democrats don’t get locked out of next month’s top-two primary. And as before, the committee is targeting Republicans rather than taking sides among the Democratic candidates.
In the 48th, located along the Orange County coast in Southern California, the D-Trip goes after former county GOP chair Scott Baugh, saying he was accused of credit card fraud and was “charged with four felonies in connection with an investigation into an election-rigging scheme.” Unmentioned, of course, is that those charges were ultimately dropped, though the ad notes that Baugh did have to pay almost $48,000 in fines to settle the matter. According to The Hill, the DCCC is spending $407,000 to air this spot, with another $169,000 on the radio.
Meanwhile, in the 49th, which is based in the San Diego suburbs, the committee is attacking Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, accusing him of breaking his promises to “never raise taxes” and “oppose wasteful spending.” The Hill says that there’s $524,000 behind this ad.
In both districts, the D-Trip is trying to drive right-leaning voters away from their targeted candidates—the intended audience for their messaging about taxes and spending is particularly obvious in the 49th. In the 48th, the task at hand is relatively straightforward: to encourage Republican voters to either back GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who’s all but guaranteed to move on to the general election, or stay at home altogether.
But the 49th is a lot trickier because there are two other credible Republican contenders, state Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey and San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar. Smooshing Chavez, therefore, could elevate both Harkey and Gaspar, and with polls showing the entire field jammed close together, it’s still possible these two could advance to November even if Chavez crumples. We could, therefore, see attack ads directed against a second GOP candidate soon, though the DCCC might simply have concluded that Gaspar, who’s always been third among the three Republicans in surveys, isn’t a major threat.
The DCCC is also getting some help in avoiding top-two debacles from a pair of major Democratic super PACs, House Majority PAC and Priorities USA. The two groups are together spending a total of $270,000 on digital ads in the 48th and 49th (likewise taking aim at Baugh and Chavez), as well as the 39th, based in the inland portion of Orange County around Fullerton. There, the two PACs are attacking former state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff and Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, just as the DCCC began doing last week. (According to Politico, the D-Trip is spending $722,000 in the 39th, though The Hill reports a much smaller figure, $234,000.)
And, oddly enough, the DCCC is also getting some help from a Republican dark money outfit—though shhh, don’t tell them that! The American Future Fund, which used to be part of the Koch orbit but now operates as a hired gun for other groups that also don’t disclose their donors, is spending about $150,000 apiece on digital ads and mailers in support of both Harkey in the 49th and Assemblywoman Young Kim in the 39th, the Republican most likely to advance there (and therefore the one Democrats have so far laid off of in that race).
Thanks to the top-two primary system, each of these races present a complicated puzzle with many moving parts, and with three weeks left until the election, these various pieces are likely to shift around some more. But as we get nearer to primary day, the puzzle will start to get locked in place because mail-in ballots, which are used by a sizable majority of California voters, were sent out last week. Every passing day, therefore, sees fewer and fewer voters who haven’t yet cast ballots, which is why all of these outside organizations are acting now.