Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján remains noncommittal on whether Democrats will spend more resources ahead of the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District.
Democrat Conor Lamb will face GOP state Rep. Rick Saccone in the March 13 election in a district that President Donald Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016. The seat was vacated by GOP Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned amid allegations the anti-abortion rights congressman encouraged his mistress to pursue an abortion.
Democrats say Lamb has made the race competitive despite the Republican nature of the district. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the district Lean Republican.
The DCCC had launched an ad to back Lamb, but it was not clear if the committee will go on air again, even as Lamb faces a barrage of GOP attack ads.
“We’ll continue to monitor that election day by day, but make no mistake, Conor will have the resources he needs to compete,” Luján said at a Wednesday press conference when asked if the committee would launch additional television ads.
Watch: Fundraising Reports Say a Lot About a Campaign
Luján pointed out that Lamb, as a candidate, has a better rate than outside groups when it comes to buying air time.
Lamb has raised more than Saccone, according to end of the year fundraising reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Lamb had raised $560,000 as of the end of December, compared to Saccone’s $215,000. Lamb also finished 2017 with $412,000 in the bank, double Saccone’s cash on hand.
But outside Republican groups have spent several million dollars attacking Lamb so far, namely by tying him to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The National Republican Congressional Committee launched a new television ad on Wednesday criticizing Lamb's work as a federal prosecutor, as part of a broader $2.5 million ad buy.
Lamb has said he would not support Pelosi for leader, but Republicans have said he would support Pelosi’s liberal agenda.
Luján dismissed attempts to tie Lamb and other caniddates to Pelosi as REpublicans “going back to their playbook that they’re familiar with.”
“I think that across the country that you’re seeing our candidates make sure that they are communicating to their constituency as to who they are and changes they would like to see here in our nation’s capital,” Luján said. “And ultimately it’s voters in those districts that are going to determine who’s going to be elected.”
The DCCC had aired an ad backing Lamb at the beginning of February, but is no longer on the airwaves. Lamb has responded to GOP attacks by launching two negative ads against Saccone as part of an estimated $400,000 ad buy, according to the Washington Post.
“When you saw us lean in a little bit it’s because we saw there was a little bit of support needed there,” Luján said, explaining the committee’s decision to air the ad earlier this month. “And then Conor quickly was able to respond, his supporters responded, and he’s back in a commanding place.”
Asked whether the committee expects to spend further resources on advertising, organizing, or devote staffers to the race, Luján indicated he did not want to show his hand to the NRCC.
“I’m sure Steve Stivers would love to hear our playbook so he can get ready for it,” Luján said. “Conor Lamb’s running a strong campaign. I think the strength of Conor Lamb’s campaign, and it’s his campaign that is being run there, has Republicans worried. Otherwise Republicans would not be spending millions and millions of dollars in a race that Donald Trump won by 19 points.”
Luján was optimistic about Lamb’s chances, pointing to polling that showed Lamb within four to five points of Saccone.
“Conor’s running a race that puts him in a place where he can win this race,” Luján said. “So I think everyone thinks he has a shot. I’m not different.”