Sep 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy's big bet

Kevin McCarthy

Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

A super PAC connected to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is making a major investment in Rhode Island's 2nd District, one of the bluest districts Republicans are targeting this year, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Republican candidate Allan Fung exemplifies what House Republicans have pointed to as their greatest asset this cycle and what sets them apart from their more embattled Senate counterparts: recruitment.

  • A moderate former gubernatorial nominee, mayor and son of immigrants, Fung is widely viewed as the golden boy of the GOP’s candidate slate this year.
  • McCarthy made headlines in August by visiting the district for a fundraiser with Fung.

Driving the news: The McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund is pouring $1 million into an ad blitz in the district, its first investment there this cycle.

  • The ad seizes on the family wealth and connections of Democratic candidate Seth Magaziner, the treasurer of Rhode Island.
  • Magaziner won his primary on Tuesday. Fung was unopposed.

By the numbers: The district, which covers the mostly rural western and southern portions of the state, voted for President Biden by 14 points in 2020 and for Hillary Clinton by 7 points in 2016.

What they're saying: "Allan Fung is a star recruit and a one-of-a-kind candidate that can turn this into a real race," said CLF president Dan Conston.

  • "Stronger, more diverse recruits have opened real opportunity in seats Democrats think they can take for granted."

The other side: "Fresh off of wasting more than $2 million in New Hampshire, Congressional Leadership Fund is setting even more money on fire by trying to buy Allan Fung's support for Kevin McCarthy's MAGA agenda," said Abby Curran Horrell, executive director of House Majority PAC, CLF's Democratic counterpart.

  • "We are confident that Seth Magaziner will win in November and that Fung and McCarthy’s extremist, out-of-touch priorities will be soundly rejected by Rhode Islanders.”

Yes, but: Even the best recruits can get swept up by a national tide — and while House Republicans are still widely seen as holding the edge, Democrats have notched notable wins in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

  • The best example is last month's special election in New York, where popular county executive Marc Molinaro, also a moderate former gubernatorial nominee, lost to a Democrat who focused on abortion.
  • Republicans tried and failed to recruit Molinaro in 2020, but got their wish this year.

Editor's note: An earlier version of a headline for this story was corrected to note that President Biden won Rhode Island's 2nd District by 14 points, not 17 points.

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