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GOP Super PAC Goes on Attack in Rural Virginia District

Democrat Cockburn has 3Q financial advantage over GOP’s Riggleman

Democrat Leslie Cockburn is running for the open seat in Virginia’s 5th District. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Democrat Leslie Cockburn is running for the open seat in Virginia’s 5th District. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A super PAC tied to House Republican leadership is going on the air in Virginia’s 5th District, where the GOP nominee for the open seat is being outspent by the Democrat. 

Congressional Leadership Fund is debuting a new ad Wednesday in the Roanoke media market that will run through Election Day. The ad, shared first with Roll Call, seeks to contrast Republican Denver Riggleman and Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn. The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that CLF was investing in the district. 

Like many CLF attacks, this one tries to tie the Democrat to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The ad charges that Pelosi “handpicked liberal Leslie Cockburn because they share Washington values,” whereas Riggleman, a distillery owner, represents “Virginia values.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn’t add Cockburn to its Red to Blue program for strong recruits until last week. The former journalist won the Democratic nod at a party convention in May, defeating Roger Dean Huffstetler, the former chief of staff to Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton — a noted Pelosi critic. 

Freshman GOP Rep. Tom Garrett is not seeking re-election to the 5th District, which he won by 17 points in 2016. CLF’s sister organization, American Action Network, also made a late investment in this district in 2016, but Garrett ended up overpeforming President Donald Trump, who carried it by 11 points. 

An Oct. 16-22 New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll found a close race this year, with Cockburn leading Riggleman 46 percent to 45 percent, within the margin of error. 

Cockburn is also going into the election with a financial advantage. She finished the third quarter ended Sept. 30 with $1 million in the bank compared to Riggleman’s $505,000. She’s benefiting from support from Women Vote, the EMILY’s List super PAC, while the Republican Jewish Coalition has helped Riggleman by attacking Cockburn.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican

Watch: 12 Ratings Changes for House, Senate and Gubernatorial Races — 4 Toward GOP, 8 Toward Democrats

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