The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, announced Wednesday it was opening a field office in Washington’s 8th District, as well as in Maine, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
By Jim Brunner
Seattle Times staff reporter
A major Republican super PAC has set up shop in Washington’s 8th Congressional District — another sign that the open-seat race to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Reichert this fall will be expensive, hard-fought and blanketed with ominous television ads.
The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, announced Wednesday it was opening a field office in the 8th District as well as in districts in Maine, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The super PAC is now active in 31 competitive congressional districts in an effort protect the Republicans’ House majority.
CLF earlier announced operations in Washington’s 5th Congressional District, where Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking House Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Lisa Brown, a former state senator.
“We have long known Republicans will face a challenging environment this midterm election cycle, and that’s why CLF has been focused on growing our data-driven national field program since February 2017,” said Corry Bliss, the group’s executive director, in a statement. He said CLF’s “micro-targeted focus on ground game will be a key component to maintaining the Republican majority in 2018.”
As a super PAC, CLF can raise unlimited money from donors and spend it in support of or opposition to candidates, but cannot legally coordinate with candidate campaigns. CLF has raised more than $36 million since 2017, and had $21.7 million in the bank as of February, according to a financial summary filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The group’s largest financial contributor for this election cycle, at $12.9 million, is the American Action Network, a conservative “dark money” group that is not required to disclose its donors, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
In the 8th, Republicans are pinning hopes on former state Sen. Dino Rossi, of Sammamish, who has lost statewide campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate but is now competing in a district where he has always won support.
“Dino Rossi is the only candidate who represents the values of the 8th Congressional District. It’s important that voters don’t let liberal Democrats like [U.S. House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi buy our elections,” said Caleb Heimlich, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, in an email.
Democrats are expecting to benefit from a sizable backlash to President Trump in the 2018 midterms, and have a more crowded field of lesser-known candidates competing in the 8th. Front-runners include pediatrician Kim Schrier; former prosecutor Jason Rittereiser; and Shannon Hader, a former top manager with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“National GOP PACs and ultra-conservative donors will be flooding Washington state in a desperate effort to hold on to the 8th Congressional District. Despite the millions of dollars they will pour into the district to prop up three time loser Dino Rossi, it’s not going to work,” said Tina Podlodowski, state Democratic Party chair, in a statement.
She said, “thousands of Democratic volunteers knocking on doors and registering voters will create the margin of victory this November.”
A major Democratic super PAC also has announced it will target the 8th District this fall. House Majority PAC, associated with Pelosi, has reserved nearly $1.7 million in television advertising time in the Seattle market for the final weeks of the 2018 election.
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That group has raised about $16.4 million since 2017, and had $11.5 million in the bank as of February, according to FEC reports. Its largest donors include unions and billionaire real-estate broker George Marcus, who has given $2.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
To take a House majority, Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats this fall. The 8th District is considered the best opportunity for the party in Washington.
The 8th has favored Democrats in presidential elections, including Hillary Clinton in 2016. But it has never sent a Democrat to Congress and got more conservative in redistricting after the 2010 census. It now stretches from eastern King and Pierce counties along the Interstate 90 corridor to Kittitas and Chelan counties.