RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A liberal super PAC is jumping into a New Mexico contested GOP U.S. House primary and running commercials in apparent support of a President Donald Trump ally that Democrats believe they can defeat in November.
Patriot Majority PAC began airing television commercials Saturday attacking oil executive Claire Chase for previous critical social media posts about Trump while praising former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell for supporting Trump’s border wall.
“There’s Santa Fe lobbyist Claire Chase who opposed President Trump, calling him an (expletive) unworthy of the office,” a voice says while pictures of Chase are aired. “Or there’s Yvette Herrell. She’s 100% loyal to Trump, backed by 11 pro-gun sheriffs and Cowboys for Trump.”
The ad urges Republican voters to “make a better choice.”
Polls have shown that Republican voters remain strong supporters of Trump and the three-way GOP U.S. House primary race has centered around candidates expressing their loyalty to the president.
Spending reports reviewed by The Associated Press show that Patriot Majority PAC bought nearly $200,000 of ads to influence Republican voters in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District primary on June 2.
The Center for Public Integrity said Patriot Majority PAC was founded by veteran Democratic Party operative Craig Varoga in 2009 to support Democratic candidates.
The ad comes as Democrats have expressed fears that Chase would be a tougher candidate for Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in the historic Republican-leaning district along the U.S.-Mexico border. Since Chase announced her candidacy, Democrats have been working behind the scenes to discredit her among Republicans.
For example, in September, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, immediately started sharing Chase’s old Facebook post critical of Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
Chase has since apologized and said she voted for Trump in 2016.
Herrell lost to Torres Small in 2018 by 3,722 votes. She faced criticism from some Republicans for running a subpar campaign by refusing to debate Torres Small on television and avoiding media outlets like the AP.
A civil war within the Republican Party of New Mexico centered around personalities and various camps has helped foster an intense and sometimes nasty GOP U.S. House primary that Democrats now seek to exploit.
The Chase campaign immediately denounce the commercial by Patriot Majority PAC. “These Nancy Pelosi allies clearly view Yvette Herrell as weak and unelectable,” Chase Campaign Manager Mike Berg said, referring to the Democratic House Speaker. “They’re trying to drag her across the finish line so they can beat her again. Every Republican should condemn these Pelosi allies for meddling in our primary.”
Chris Mathys, who is also seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Torres Small, said the people behind the Patriot Majority PAC were similar to those who have donated more than $3 million to Torres Small’s campaign. “They believe (Herrell) will be easily defeated in the general election,” Mathys said. “Yvette needs to demand the ads are canceled.”
In a statement, Herrell said she saw the Patriot Majority PAC ad promoting her as “an attack” from liberals. “They know I am leading the Republican race and are already starting their general election attacks on me,” she said. “Their liberal attacks won’t work.”
Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras
This story was first published on May 23, 2020. It was updated on May 29, 2020, to correct Yvette Herrell lost to U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in 2018 by 3,722 votes, not fewer than 3,000.