Democrats are running ads to help far-right, election-denying candidates win primaries in hopes they'll be easier to beat in the general election

In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo rioters supporting President Donald Trump storm the Capitol in Washington.
In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo rioters supporting President Donald Trump storm the Capitol in Washington.John Minchillo/AP
  • Several Democratic groups have paid for ads that support extreme, right-wing candidates.

  • The efforts have attacked more moderate Republicans and appear aimed at improving Democrats' chances in the fall.

  • But some on the left have called the strategy "risky" given potential threats to democracy.

Democrats are paying for ads to promote far-right candidates in the primaries, apparently with the idea they'll be easier to beat than more mainstream Republicans in the fall.

One 30-second ad in California attacked incumbent GOP Rep. David Valadao and promoted one of his challengers for the 22nd district, rancher and businessman Chris Mathys.

Mathys went to great lengths to align himself with Trump, even trying to identify himself on the ballot as a "Trump conservative/Businessman," a request the California secretary of state denied. Mathys also told The Bakersfield Californian in January that Trump would have won the 2020 election if the votes were "properly counted," despite election audits, officials, and judges dismissing claims of widespread fraud.

"David Valadao claims he's Republican, yet David Valadao voted to impeach President Trump," the ad said, adding that Mathys, on the other hand, was a "true conservative, 100% pro-Trump and proud."

House Majority PAC, which is linked to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, paid for the ad.

Valadao was leading over Mathys as of Friday evening, but the ad was one of several instances in which Democratic groups boosted Republican candidates who promoted false claims of voter fraud or expressed support for January 6.

The efforts have targeted more moderate Republicans who are facing Trumpian candidates and appear to be aimed at improving Democratic candidates' chances in the general election. The practice is not new, but some on the left have expressed concerns that it could be a risky move given the insurrection and current economic factors that could hurt Democrats in the midterms, including soaring inflation.

"I think it's very dangerous and potentially very risky to elevate people who are hostile to democracy," Howard Wolfson, a Democratic strategist, told The Washington Post. "Either this is a crisis moment or it isn't. And if it is — which it is — you don't play cute in a crisis."

Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York also said the strategy could be especially dangerous given the current moment.

"I realize that this type of political gamesmanship has existed forever, but our country is in a very different place now than we were in previous cycles," Rice told The New York Times. "For these Democratic groups to throw money at raising up a person who they know wants to tear down this democracy is outrageous."

Other examples of Democratic groups using this strategy include a Senate race in Colorado and governor races in Nevada and Illinois, according to The Post.

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