Politics

Steyer-Backed Group Goes Negative in House Democratic Primary

Group’s first 2018 action includes negative digital ad in open Pa. seat

NextGen America’s digital ad is aimed at John Morganelli. (Screen grab of ad)

NextGen America is going negative in a House race in Pennsylvania, less than one week before the Democratic primary. The group is backed by billionaire Democrat Tom Steyer and focused on mobilizing young voters.

The digital ads launched Wednesday target North Hampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who is running in a competitive Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 7th District. It’s the group’s first action in a primary in the 2018 cycle, and the first time since 2013 that the group has launched negative ads in a Democratic primary.

Morganelli is considered a top candidate in the race due to his high name recognition, but the group has taken issue with his anti-abortion rights and anti-illegal immigration stances.

Morganelli is a staunch opponent of so-called sanctuary cities that do not enforce federal immigration laws. Morganelli also appealed to then-President-elect Donald Trump on Twitter saying he hoped to serve the administration. 

“John Morganelli does not support a women’s right to choose and has repeatedly sought to make lives harder for immigrants,” NextGen America spokeswoman Aleigha Cavalier said in a statement. 

“He sees no evidence that Donald Trump is a racist, and even asked to serve in his administration,” Cavalier said. “These are not the values of young Pennsylvanians, and John Morganelli shouldn’t represent the Democratic Party on the ballot in November.”

The 10-second video shows an image of Morganelli with the text. “We can’t let this Pro-Trump candidate win our Dem primary. Stop Morganelli. VOTE May 15.”

The ad will be seen on Facebook and Instragram. NextGen will also send out mail pieces that are similar to the video. The group will spend about $100,000 in the district on its anti-Morganelli efforts.

NextGen held the first of its candidate forums in the 7th District in part because the group views the district as key to Democrats flipping the House. The district, based in Lehigh Valley, is an open seat since GOP Rep. Charlie Dent is not running for re-election.

It also became more favorable to Democrats after the state Supreme Court imposed a new congressional map following a partisan gerrymandering case. Dent’s seat shifted from one that President Donald Trump carried by 8 points in 2016, to a district Hillary Clinton would have won by 1 point. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilts Democratic.

Morganelli is also taking heat from EMILY’s List, the group supporting pro-abortion rights female candidates. The group’s independent expenditure arm WOMEN VOTE! launched a six-figure television ad buy Wednesday knocking Morganelli for agreeing with Trump on abortion and other issues, according to a press release. 

“If Morganelli won’t stand up to Trump,” he can’t represent, the narrator says in the 30-second ad. 

EMILY’s List has endorsed Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild in the race. WOMEN VOTE! launched a direct mail and television advertising program last week to bolster Wild. The group has so far spent nearly $90,000 on the race, according to Federal Election Commission documents.

Wild, Morganelli, and pastor Greg Edwards are considered the front-runners in the primary.

Edwards has led the field in fundraising and has the backing of national liberal groups. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has endorsed Edwards and will campaign for Edwards in Allentown on Saturday.

Operatives watching the race have noted Morganelli’s name recognition advantage, which could be enough to give him an edge in a field of six candidates. They questioned whether Wild or Edwards had enough resources to target Morganelli, but outside groups are now stepping to fill that role.

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