Mar 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats attack Senate GOP's wealthy "carpetbagger" candidates

Illustration of a suitcase with a dollar sign shaped arms

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several top GOP candidates for Senate share a vulnerability Democrats are itching to exploit — million-dollar homes outside of the states they're running in.

Why it matters: Faced with a Senate election map that heavily favors the GOP, Democrats are hoping to hold on to their slim majority by painting Republican challengers as out-of-touch out-of-towners.

  • It's not unusual to see candidates move to the state they want to run in, but "carpetbagger" attacks can be potent. Republican Mehmet Oz's roots in New Jersey were a clear vulnerability for him in Pennsylvania last cycle.
  • Democrats also hope to use the wealth of Republican candidates to convey the message that the GOP is the party of millionaires — not the middle class.

Zoom in: Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) has two homes — one in Michigan, where he's running for Senate, and one in Florida, where he's lived and even voted from after retiring from the House in 2014. Michigan "always has been home" for Rogers and his wife, a spokesperson told Axios.

  • Republican Pennsylvania candidate Dave McCormick, a hedge fund millionaire, has come under scrutiny for his Connecticut residence. A spokesperson said McCormick is "a divorced dad who spends time with his daughter, and if that's a political problem, so be it."
  • Republican Eric Hovde is running for Senate in Wisconsin but owns a bank in Utah and a multimillion-dollar home in California.
  • Tim Sheehy, who's hoping to oust Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), is the multimillionaire CEO of an aerospace company that gets money from federal government contracts. Sheehy has lived in Montana for the past decade but grew up in Minnesota.
  • Bernie Moreno, running in Ohio, would become one of the wealthiest senators if elected, with a net worth estimated to be between $25 million and $106 million. He owns stakes in multiple properties from Costa Rica to New York City to the Florida Keys.

What they're saying: "Senate Republicans' roster of recruits is full of carpetbaggers who don't know the first thing about the states they're running in and candidates who bring enough financial scandals and baggage to fill a bank vault," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Tommy Garcia said in a statement.

The other side: Republicans plan to launch a counterattack, going after vulnerable Democrats such as Tester and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) for accumulating wealth while in office.

  • "Sherrod Brown has spent his entire life collecting a taxpayer-funded paycheck," Reagan McCarthy, a Moreno spokesperson, told Axios in a statement. "Bernie is proud of the fact that he built a successful company and employed thousands of Ohioans."
  • "We are also going to inform voters that [Arizona Democrat] Ruben Gallego signed sworn documents stating that his primary residence is Washington, D.C., and that [Michigan Democrat] Elissa Slotkin was until recently 'living' in a lobbyist's house," National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Mike Berg told Axios in a statement.
  • "Eric Hovde is a born and raised Wisconsinite, and unlike career politicians like [Democratic Sen. Tammy] Baldwin, he can't be bought by special interests," a spokesperson for Hovde told Axios in a statement.
  • "Both successful businessmen and political outsiders, [former] President Trump and Tim Sheehy can't be bought and are the conservative warriors we need to put the people of Montana first, drain the swamp, and save our country from the mess Joe Biden and Jon Tester created," a spokesperson for Sheehy told Axios.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say Sen. Sherrod Brown is a Democrat, not a Republican.

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