Hispanic Caucus throws $1 million into disputed Oregon primary

Salinas for Congress/Flynn for Congress
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is backing Andrea Salinas in the primary fight, while the House Majority PAC is supporting Carrick Flynn.

The campaign arm for congressional Hispanic Democrats is set to invest $1 million in an Oregon House race that’s become a proxy for a growing rift between House Latinos and Democratic leadership, The Hill has learned.

Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) campaign arm, is preparing the seven-figure independent expenditure in favor of its endorsed candidate, state Rep. Andrea Salinas (D), in the race for Oregon’s newly created 6th District.

“Andrea Salinas is a proven leader who will fight for affordable health care, a woman’s right to choose, good jobs, and an environment that is protected for generations to come. That is why BOLD PAC is proud to stand with this exceptional leader,” said Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.).

The new investment is a tit-for-tat blow against the Democratic leadership PAC, House Majority PAC (HMP), which earlier this month pledged a similar investment to prop up political newcomer Carrick Flynn in that race.

The HMP investment prompted aggressive blowback from Bold PAC leaders, who cried foul over the Democratic establishment’s support of an already well-funded outsider candidate competing against eight other Democrats, including three women of color.

Flynn’s fundraising has benefited from out-of-state donors enamored with his resume as a pandemic prevention expert, and Protect Our Future, a cryptocurrency-connected super PAC, has pledged $6 million in outside spending to support his candidacy.

Bold PAC Chairman Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said the decision to fund Flynn is a reflection of the leadership group’s lack of investment in Hispanic voters, using HMP’s relatively paltry Spanish-language budget as an example.

“Every district is different, and for us the biggest problem — I wouldn’t say betrayal — but the biggest lack of attention and/or sophistication is the $1 million dollars spent out of $100 million on a growing population that is the base of your party in many of these districts,” Gallego told The Hill on Friday.

“These are all these races where a million dollars just alone in Spanish advertising should be spent to win there, and in fact that HMP doesn’t do that really calls into question their ability to win races,” he added.

Gallego had no say in Bold PAC’s million-dollar pledge since he heads the side of the campaign group that coordinates directly with individual campaigns.

Both the Bold PAC and HMP million-dollar investments, as well as Protect Our Future’s $6 million pledge, are independent expenditures, meaning they are not subject to campaign spending limits but cannot be coordinated directly with the candidates’ campaigns.

The flood of cryptocurrency and Washington, D.C., money into a new district has changed the dynamics of a primary that was expected to be contested among known quantities in Oregon politics.

Instead, the district and its 20 percent Hispanic population have become a battleground for a long-simmering discussion within the Democratic Party about establishment focus on minority voters.

HMP, the largest Democratic House super PAC, has historically rankled Hispanic campaign operatives, who say Latino voters are often treated as an afterthought.

But despite the behind-the-scenes rancor, the multimillion-dollar campaign ads have maintained a positive tone, introducing the district’s voters to the candidates rather than attacking opponents.

House Majority PAC Executive Director Abby Curran Horrell said the Oregon race is the exception in the relationship between the two campaign groups.

“While we may not agree in this race, House Majority PAC looks forward to working with CHC BOLD PAC and others to work together in the vast majority of races where our interests are aligned. We are firmly committed to engaging with Latino communities and supporting Latino candidates and incumbents around the country in order to secure a Democratic House Majority in 2022,” Horrell told The Hill in an email.

The rift between Hispanic Democrats and the House leadership’s campaign operation could extend beyond finger-pointing, as Bold PAC has historically donated a majority of its remaining funds after the primaries to HMP.

Gallego said the Bold PAC board, composed of the CHC members, is still not discussing whether it will repeat that donation in 2022.

But the fallout over the Oregon primary has piled onto historical questions about leadership’s commitment to actively pursuing Hispanic voters.

“A lot of the members of Bold PAC are questioning the relationship with HMP,” said Gallego.

Tags Norma Torres Ruben Gallego

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