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DSCC Funding TV Ads to Help McGinty in Penn. Senate Primary

Some Democrats may rather see the funds spent in a general election

McGinty (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call)
McGinty (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is spending $425,000 on TV ads to boost Pennsylvania Senate candidate Katie McGinty, according to an official with the committee. That’s a decision that will aid the establishment-backed candidate ahead of her April 26 primary, but one that could draw criticism the party is siphoning valuable resources better used in a general election.  

The money will replace the McGinty campaign’s own TV ad reservations statewide starting Tuesday, according to the DSCC official and two sources tracking the ad buy.  

The ad buy is not an independent expenditure from the committee, which has endorsed McGinty, but part of a coordinated buy funded by the DSCC’s own campaign account. Because there are limits on how much this type of coordinated money can be spent in a state, spending it in a primary means there will be less available in a general election.  

The limit on spending coordinated money in Pennsylvania is $1.9 million, according to one source familiar with coordination rules.  

The cash infusion will help McGinty, who has lagged in polls despite an array of endorsements from party leaders, including President Barack Obama and Sen. Bob Casey. Party leaders have backed the former Al Gore adviser because they worry her opponent former Rep. Joe Sestak, who by his own admission likes to do things his own way, will be a weak candidate in the general election.  

Sestak was the party’s 2010 nominee, when he defeated incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter and lost narrowly to Pat Toomey in the fall. His style has rubbed many party leaders the wrong way, though many supporters contend that a clear-eyed look at his electoral record proves he is a strong candidate no matter what they think. Sestak twice won a battleground Philadelphia-area House district before his first run for Senate.  

His supporters criticized news of the DSCC’s decision.  

“It’s strange to spend money propping up McGinty when she’s trailing significantly in the primary, performing behind Sestak in general election match-ups with Pat Toomey, and Sestak has a perfectly good Democratic voting record,” said one ally, not authorized to speak on the record about the campaign. “How does this maximize the chances of Democrats winning back the Senate?”  

The Pennsylvania primary is the one intra-Democratic battle that party leaders remain worried about . Toomey, who first won election to the Senate in 2010, is considered a top target of Democrats in 2016.  

Despite the evident anti-establishment animus spreading through both party’s presidential primaries, Democratic leaders have been unusually aggressive in their involvement with Senate primaries this year.  

On Thursday, McGinty deployed the Obama endorsement in a TV ad, a day after the campaign announced his support.  

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