Democrats launch new campaign to tie vulnerable New York Republicans to George Santos
The House Democrats’ campaign arm is launching a new effort to link vulnerable New York Republicans to Rep. George Santos, with Democrats betting that the freshman congressman will be a major liability for the GOP in key swing districts next year.
Beginning on Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is rolling out a five-figure billboard campaign targeting five freshman Republicans who took donations from Santos: New York Reps. Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams, all of whom helped Republicans win a narrow majority last fall by winning seats that President Joe Biden had carried.
Molinaro and D’Esposito both returned the money from Santos after a number of his financial issues came to light, but the billboards in their districts ask why the lawmakers took campaign cash from “a fraudster” in the first place. The other three billboards, which feature a picture of Santos and the lawmaker, ask whether the members will return the campaign donations.
All five Republicans have sought to distance themselves from Santos, becoming some of the loudest voices in the party to condemn him or call on him to resign. Still, Democrats see an opening to tie these GOP freshmen to Santos.
The weeks-long campaign, the details of which were first shared with CNN, comes unusually early in the cycle, and is a sign that Democrats plan to make a serious effort to reverse their midterm losses in the Empire State. While Democrats were able to stave off an anticipated red wave in many parts of the country, New York was an exception. Republicans there effectively ran on the issue of crime and flipped a number of competitive House seats, which will be top targets for Democrats as they look to win back power in 2024.
“New Yorkers want Santos out of office, and these congressmen’s meaningless words aren’t enough to make up for their failure to actually take action to hold their campaign donor accountable,” said DCCC spokesperson Nebeyatt Betre. “The least they can do is answer these questions.”
The DCCC isn’t alone in zeroing in on New York. Last week, House Majority PAC – the predominant super PAC that works to elect Democrats to the House – announced a $45 million program dedicated to the Empire State to help Democrats regain the majority in 2024.
Santos, who has refused to step aside, has admitted to lying about key aspects of his resume and is facing local, state and federal investigations that have fueled Republican worries about his potential impact on the rest of the GOP ticket in New York.
Santos has recently been telling people he is considering running for a second term, according to multiple Republican sources, after previously signaling to Republicans he wouldn’t seek reelection.
But if Santos does run again, party leaders are vowing to mount an aggressive effort to defeat him in a primary and have assured New York Republicans that Santos won’t be their nominee.