Context: Why Will National Democrat Groups Cancel TV Ad Spend for Michelle Vallejo In TX-15?
On Sunday, Josh Kraushaar published an update on Axios about campaign spending by national groups for congressional midterm races. It included a note that House Majority PAC will stop funding television ads supporting Michelle Vallejo in Texas Congressional District 15.
House Majority PAC is the largest group of outside spending in congressional campaigns for Democrats and is set to spend $20 Million on TV ads towards those races across the country in this election cycle.
From the Kraushaar article:
Texas Democrat Michelle Vallejo, a progressive running in a majority-Hispanic Rio Grande Valley district against Republican Monica de la Cruz, isn’t getting any DCCC (TV ad spend) support in her Trump +3 district. House Majority PAC is planning to cancel the scheduled ad reservations for her at the end of the month, according to a source familiar with the group’s plans.
The development came as a shock to many in a race that the Houston Chronicle called “statistically the closest congressional race in Texas” and The Texas Tribune referred to as “the linchpin of Republicans’ drive to take over the region” in their reporting of this story.
Days prior to that reporting, Michael Scherer published statements in The Washington Post from the DCCC saying that the organization would not have enough funding to support all congressional candidates.
From the Scherer article:
“There are places that I don’t know if we are going to be able to get to,” said Tim Persico, the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “It’s just money. They have billionaires and corporations stepping up with big checks and we just don’t have the same type of support. We are just getting outspent everywhere, so it is just a question of how much can we withstand.”
According to Persico, Democrats are currently at a national disadvantage when it comes to spending power at a district level.
Democrats have purchased or reserved $330 Million in television spending in comparison to $316 Million by Republicans. But for Democrats, a much larger portion of that overall spend is in the hands of individual campaigns.
This means the proportion of funding that Republican groups can send to any district campaign across the country is much larger — leaving Democrat groups to decide how to carefully spread out what money they can move in this way in order to stay competitive.
The decision to make TX-15 one of the districts to suffer reduced funding was met with criticism locally.
Political organizers, advocates, and Vallejo supporters in TX-15 took to social media to push back on the implication that the district was not competitive enough to receive that funding.
Danny Diaz, political director at LUPE Votes in the Rio Grande Valley, was quick to question the decision by the national organizations.
“Absolutely insane to me that the DCCC Super PAC spends millions for Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar, and $0 for Michelle Vallejo,” said Diaz in the tweet. “Not a good look. They threw in towel 2 weeks prior to early vote. It feels intentional, as if they wish she doesn’t win.”
Diaz’ tweet included an image of a statistics-based analysis from the political data website FiveThirtyEight, showing TX-15 as a toss-up favoring Vallejo.
Analyses like this and many others still leave questions about the DCCC’s reasoning for the cut — budget problems or no. And this is leading some to take a closer look at the relationship between some national Democratic organizations and Vallejo.
Carlos Nogueras for Al Día:
With less than a month to go until the general election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not moved forward with an endorsement for Vallejo. Historically, a nominee would have already been chosen, but Vallejo did not make their cut.
On Tuesday, Patrick Svitek — who covers politics and campaign spending for The Texas Tribune — went on The Texas Standard to talk about the budget cut by House Majority PAC and why the DCCC might be lending tighter support to Cuellar and Gonzalez in neighboring districts than to Vallejo.
From The Texas Standard radio interview:
These national Democratic groups are spending in the two other targeted South Texas districts, which are districts where current Democratic incumbents are running for re-election. And sometimes, to these committees, protecting incumbents is a higher priority than these open seats like the one that we have in the 15th District.
It’s definitely true that Henry Cuellar is getting this backing, and he is a more moderate Democrat than Michelle Vallejo is in the 15th District. At the same time, as I pointed out, he also is an incumbent. And he’s not only an incumbent, but he’s an incumbent in good standing with his party’s leadership.
And so sometimes, again, protecting incumbents and protecting incumbents who are team players with leadership, you know, takes a higher priority here. I wouldn’t say it’s all about (that), but sometimes it just comes down to those relationships.
In October of last year, Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez unexpectedly announced he would no longer be running in TX-15.
The civic engagement group LUPE Votes, who said at the time that they were “tired of establishment Democrats”, quickly began a campaign to find a replacement. They asked local voters in the district to nominate someone from their own community.
Michelle Vallejo ran on a progressive platform after she was nominated through this process. In May, she won a runoff against a moderate to become the Democratic candidate for TX-15.
Trump-backed Republican challenger Monica De La Cruz responded to the decision by DCCC in a Twitter thread that “it does not matter how much money the Dems put into the district… there is no enthusiasm here for that crazy liberal agenda.”
The Congressional Leadership Fund, among other outside money groups, continue to spend heavily on TV ads against Vallejo in the district, echoing an exaggeration of that same sentiment from De La Cruz.
In one such recent TV ad, a video depicted animated images and quotes by Vallejo in juxtaposition with images of violence and drug use.
Despite the uneven TV ad spends, the decision by the DCCC has ironically reinvigorated Vallejo’s supporters on social media.