Rank-and-file House Democrats are protesting their leaders’ scheme to promote pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries, a strategy based on the belief that they will be easier to defeat in the general election.
Calling it “dishonorable” and “dangerous,” the lawmakers lashed out at Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Mr. Maloney hatched the plan to spend Democratic Party campaign cash to boost candidates closely allied with former President Donald Trump.
“I don’t think anybody should be spending money promoting election deniers,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Florida Democrat. “There’s enough misinformation out there that no one should be amplifying those messages. It’s dangerous for our democracy.”
Rep. Dean Phillips, Minnesota Democrat, said he was particularly disappointed with his party’s spending on the Republican primary opponent of Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump on charges of inciting the U.S. Capitol riot in 2021.
“The fact that it’s Peter Meijer, who I think is one of the most honorable Republicans, is what further disappoints me,” he said.
“Our country is struggling with its faith in government, its trust in our electoral system. And I think when a major political party actually promotes the very people that we have articulated time and time again are a great risk to our country, I can’t see how anybody could read that any differently than I just did. Which is: It is dishonorable,” Mr. Phillips said.
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In Mr. Meijer’s primary race in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, the DCCC is spending roughly $500,000 to promote John Gibbs, a Trump-endorsed former official with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Democrats have sought to influence the outcomes of Republican primary races in Michigan, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Maryland.
Democratic organizations’ meddling helped Republican gubernatorial nominees Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Dan Cox in Maryland win their respective primaries.
“It is not the DCCC’s job to support Republicans in primaries,” Mr. Phillips said. “Some could argue the means justify the ends; I’m not one of them.”
Mr. Maloney defended the strategy by saying the DCCC is simply advertising facts about pro-Trump candidates that just happen to resonate with the Republican Party base.
“What this is doing is telling the truth about how John Gibbs is a dangerous extremist who’s too close to Donald Trump and too conservative for western Michigan,” Mr. Maloney recently told reporters at the Capitol.
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Mr. Maloney is also catching heat from far-left activists who say the duplicity underscores what’s wrong with the Democratic Party’s more moderate establishment.
“Democratic Party leadership will literally support Republicans before they start supporting progressives,” Justice Democrats tweeted. The PAC recruits and supports far-left Democratic candidates such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
In Michigan, the DCCC is airing a 30-second ad that ostensibly attacks Mr. Gibbs’ far-right or pro-Trump stances, but the themes appeal to conservative voters.
If Mr. Gibbs prevails in Tuesday’s primary, Democrats calculate he will be easier for their party’s candidate, Hillary Scholten, to defeat in the Nov. 8 general election. Ms. Scholten is running unopposed in the primary.
Mr. Meijer said the DCCC is “talking out of both sides of its mouth.”
“It’s just this is a town that I think is willing to tolerate a staggering degree of hypocrisy, and this is still beyond staggering,” he told The Washington Times.
Democratic meddling in Republican primary races also is not sitting well with the party’s old guard.
Dozens of former members of Congress and former Cabinet officials have signed an open letter saying they “oppose any practice that intentionally elevates election deniers.”
“We are dismayed by the recent practice of Democratic organizations intervening in Republican primaries to promote candidates who deny the outcome of the last presidential election,” they wrote in the letter, which is posted on the Issue One website.
“These destructive primary tactics aim to elevate Republican candidates who Democrats hope they can more easily beat in November,” they said. “But it is risky and unethical to promote any candidate whose campaign is based on eroding trust in our elections.”
The 35 signatories included former Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, as well as former Reps. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Jane Harman of California and Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania.
Some Democrats support the DCCC’s strategy.
“Sean has got a tough job, and I’m not going to second-guess him,” said Rep. Daniel Kildee of Michigan. “I’m focused on one particular race, mine, and I won’t second-guess him on the rest of them.”