Texas Dem attacked by DCCC makes primary runoff for Culberson's seat

Texas Dem attacked by DCCC makes primary runoff for Culberson's seat
© Greg Nash

The Texas Democrat who was targeted by the House Democrats’ campaign arm is projected to advance to a primary runoff in the race to unseat Rep. John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonDCCC official says Democrats look to make 'big gains' in Texas, Georgia Democrats need a worthy climate plan NASA lost key support to explore Jupiter's moon MORE (R-Texas). 

Laura Moser, a journalist and activist, will run against lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in the May 22 runoff, since none of the seven Democratic candidates was able to get a majority of the vote. Fletcher came in first but failed to win enough votes to avert a runoff, while Moser came in second.

The Associated Press projected Fletcher to finish in the top spot Tuesday evening, while it waited to make the call on Moser until past midnight. As of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Fletcher had 29 percent of the vote to Moser's 24 percent. 

Moser’s advancement to the runoff comes despite a controversial attack by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) against her.

In a surprising move, the DCCC published opposition research about Moser that focuses on concerns about her residency and claims that her husband’s company unfairly benefited from her campaign. 

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The research dump included a Washingtonian magazine story she wrote in 2014 that said she’d rather "have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia” than live in Paris, Texas — a small city more than 300 miles away from the Houston district where she’s running. It also noted that her campaign paid $50,000 to Revolution Messaging, a D.C.-based consulting firm where her husband works.

The committee believes that disqualifies her as a general election candidate and would cripple a potential campaign against Culberson. He’s represented the Houston-area seat since 2001, but Democrats are targeting his district after Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders expected to announce exploratory committee next week Bernie Sanders records announcement video ahead of possible 2020 bid Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants MORE narrowly won it in 2016.

Fletcher, a longtime volunteer for Planned Parenthood, was backed by the Houston Chronicle editorial board, which referred to her as one of the party’s best shots at winning the general election.

The episode has infuriated progressive groups that believe the DCCC targeted Moser to stymie a progressive candidate, reopening the national divide between the two wings of the Democratic Party.

Even some national party leaders have questioned the DCCC’s move. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE said that he “wouldn’t have” attacked Moser and the party should instead focus on the issues. 

But some argue that a more moderate candidate raises Democrats’ prospects in toppling Culberson. And when the Houston Chronicle endorsed two other candidates in the race, the editorial board cautioned that while Moser has an energetic base, “even Democrats who like her question whether she's too liberal to win this historically Republican district.”

The DCCC has left the door open to getting involved in other crowded primaries, particularly in California. But Moser’s ability to score a runoff spot and the backlash from progressives could send a warning sign to the campaign committee about future involvement in primaries.