About three dozen former Democratic House and Senate members have signed on to an open letter blistering national Democrats for their meddling in this year’s Republican primaries, often to the benefit of pro-Donald Trump hard-liners.
The letter, shared first with POLITICO, is the latest in growing backlash against the controversial practice, in which Democrats have been elevating far-right Republicans they believe will be easier to defeat in the fall.
“As former members of Congress and the Cabinet, we oppose any practice that intentionally elevates election deniers,” the letter reads. “And as members of the Democratic Party, we are dismayed by the recent practice of Democratic organizations intervening in Republican primaries to promote candidates who deny the outcome of the last presidential election.”
It goes on: “These destructive primary tactics aim to elevate Republican candidates who Democrats hope they can more easily beat in November. But it is risky and unethical to promote any candidate whose campaign is based on eroding trust in our elections. We must stop this practice, and stop today.”
The letter’s signatories include former senators and House members from across the country, including former Sens. Gary Hart of Colorado and Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, as well as former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt. Former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, a former general chair of the Democratic National Committee, also signed on.
The letter, issued through the political reform group Issue One, follows Democratic interventions in Republican primaries in Maryland, Pennsylvania, California and other states. And despite mixed results, those efforts are ongoing. Ahead of the primary on Tuesday in Michigan, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee placed a TV ad buy designed to lift the Trump-endorsed Republican running against Rep. Peter Meijer, a House Republican who voted to impeach Trump.
Democratic proponents of the practice have said it is GOP primary voters, not Democrats, who are expressing Republicans’ allegiance at the ballot box to Trump-ism and the far right. And they have defended meddling as smart politics — a way to stack the deck against Republicans in the general election by saddling them with a less electable nominee.
The risk is that those Republicans may be more competitive than they seem. In Pennsylvania, where Democrats intervened on behalf of hard-liner Doug Mastriano in that state’s gubernatorial primary, Mastriano appears now to have at least a credible chance of winning.