The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week began airing television ads that go after two Republicans running for retiring Rep. Ed Royce’s seat. The ads made no mention of a third, Young Kim, who has led polls, has the backing of Royce, and is widely seen as the Democrats’ most formidable potential opponent in November.
By attacking two Republicans viewed as second-tier, Democrats are hoping to suppress GOP votes for those candidates while ensuring that Kim gets far enough ahead to be the only Republican in the general election. They also hope to avoid explicitly backing or attacking one of their own in the increasingly nasty intraparty fights in some districts.
“We dislike all the Republican candidates, but we’re just choosing wisely which ones we’re attacking,” said one Democratic source familiar with the committee’s thinking.
The strategy is part of a new approach to California’s top two primary, in which the top two vote-getters on June 5 advance to the general election regardless of party. With at least half a dozen candidates from each major party, the free-for-all to replace Royce (R-Fullerton) could yield a choice between two Republicans.
The ads in Royce’s 39th District attack former state Sen. Bob Huff for positions he took on increasing taxes as a state legislator and hit Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson for the “pension hypocrisy” of accepting a generous pension package while moving to cut benefits for others.
Aside from Kim, Democrats hope the beneficiary of the ads is Gil Cisneros, a Democrat and Navy veteran whom the DCCC recently elevated to its “Red to Blue” program, which gives his campaign more strategic and fundraising support. The move was short of a formal endorsement, but was meant to signal to donors and supporters which campaign it thinks is strongest. Veteran political operatives are also being courted by the DCCC to join Cisneros’ campaign before the primary.
With tensions running high among Democratic activists, party leaders have been warned that increasing their support for Cisneros or attacking another Democrat as they did in a Texas race could backfire.
“I don’t believe we should be attacking any Democrat in California,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, who serves as western vice chair for the committee.
Attacking two Republicans was seen as an elegant solution.