PA-8: DCCC, Rendell Trying to Push Santarsiero Out of the Race
According to a Democratic aide with close ties to the DCCC, the worries stem primarily from Santarsiero’s poor fundraising.
The leaders at the DCCC, who haven’t endorsed a candidate, met recently to discuss the 2016 congressional nationwide landscape. Along with the current regime, former DCCC head Steve Israel was also in attendance. They are particularly upset that Santarsiero’s numbers are so far behind similar Democratic candidates in highly targeted seats.
Pennsylvania’s Eighth District was described as a top three target in 2016.
The 8th consists of all of Bucks County (which has gone Democratic for the last six presidential elections) and a more rural, Republican part of Upper Montgomery County. Altogether, the district went to Mitt Romney by just a single point in 2012.
Additionally, popular four-term Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is retiring. Open seats are much more likely to switch parties and presidential election years tend to yield a more Democratic-leaning electorate.
Democrats see a prime pick-up opportunity and want to avoid a costly primary.
Party leaders want to avoid a similar fight. In fact, they’re envious of the way the Bucks County GOP have been able to clear the field for State Rep. Scott Petri. At the moment, Petri has two potential primary challengers but they aren’t perceived as serious threats and Republicans will likely rally behind Petri.
DCCC officials are also worried that Santarisiero’s record as a legislator in Harrisburg could prove to be an albatross in a general election campaign. The State Rep. has had to take many tough votes (including Gov. Corbett’s transportation bill) while Naughton has no track record to attack.
EMILY’s List, the powerful organization that promotes pro-choice female candidates, are also preparing to go all in for Naughton.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that a Democratic ticket headed by presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, soon-to-be Senate candidate Katie McGinty and Congressional candidate Shaughnessy Naughton could have major appeal to female voters.
Finally, a major proponent of putting all the party’s resources behind Naughton has been former Gov. Ed Rendell. Rendell threw his support behind her in the waning days of the 2014 campaign and endorsed her as soon as she declared this time.
The ex-Governor is reaching out to contacts in D.C. and urging them to support Naughton.
Currently, Democrats are hoping to convince Santarsiero to drop out by the end of the next fundraising quarter to give Naughton sufficient time to pool her resources and gather strength for the upcoming general election in 2016.
PoliticsPA reached out to the DCCC, Governor Rendell and both campaigns. The DCCC and Naughton campaigns declined to comment. Gov. Rendell did not get back to PoliticsPA.
“We are excited about all the support for Steve so far, including grassroots support and endorsements from Democratic leaders, local committees, and organized labor,” responded the Santarsiero campaign. “This campaign is about the voters of the 8th District and we are confident we are building a campaign to win in 2016.”
UPDATE: NRCC Spokesman Chris Pack released the following statement in response:
“It’s nice to see that the DCCC still can’t get out of their own way by meddling in PA-08 yet again. We’re sure that 80-plus Democratic officials who have endorsed Steve Santarsiero are totally cool with D.C. Democrats coming to town to hand-pick their own candidate to try and advance Nancy Pelosi’s extreme agenda.”
UPDATE 2: The Santarsiero campaign sent a message from the candidate himself to PoliticsPA:
“The claim that Democrats are pushing us out of the race is ridiculous. I am proud to have received the endorsement of 8 local committees, Democratic leaders throughout the region, 9 unions and have out-raised my primary opponent to date. I know what it takes to beat Republicans and I’m the only candidate on either side with a record of winning in a swing district. I’m confident that we are building the campaign we need to win in 2016 and this is a desperate move by a campaign that’s falling behind.”
UPDATE 3: DCCC spokesman Jermaine House sent the following response to PoliticsPA:
“The DCCC is not actively involved in shaping this primary. We are confident that either of the candidates in the race right now can win in 2016.”