GOP super PAC targets blue House seats in Illinois, New York

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House Republicans’ top congressional super PAC is betting that a last minute cash infusion can flip two deep-blue districts on the edges of the House battlefield.

The Congressional Leadership Fund is going on air with seven-figure buys targeting Democratic Rep. Sean Casten in suburban Chicago and the Long Island seat held by retiring Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice. The super PAC is investing $1.8 million and $1.5 million, respectively, on broadcast buys in the expensive Chicago and New York City media markets.

Neither district has seen much outside spending before the final days of the midterms, and President Joe Biden carried both of them by double-digits in 2020. But the late ad buys suggest Republicans see opportunities in both places as the country grapples with high cost of living and the possibility of an economic recession looming.

House Majority PAC, CLF's Democratic counterpart, also recently invested in both districts — a sign that both parties believe the seats are at risk of flipping.

“All cycle we made it our priority to expand the map as far as possible and late breakers are giving us the opportunity to press even deeper in the final stretch,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a statement.

On Long Island, Democrat Laura Gillen, a former Hempstead Town supervisor, faces Republican Anthony D’Esposito, a Hempstead Town Council member, in a district that Biden carried by nearly 15 points in 2020.

Democrats have long worried about Long Island, the site of a shellacking in the 2019 local elections. Retirements by Rice and Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s unpopularity and rising crime rates cemented its status as a problem child. House Majority PAC placed a $1.2 million buy to aid Gillen this week, according to data from AdImpact, a TV ad tracking firm.

The Congressional Leadership Fund’s first 15-second spot warns that Gillen was endorsed by a group “that wants to defund the police and end cash bail.” A second warns Gillen would raise taxes.

In Illinois, Casten’s district had seen little notable outside spending until this week and was widely thought to be safe.

First elected in 2018, Casten beat fellow Democratic Rep. Marie Newman in 2022 in a rare member-on-member primary created by redistricting. Biden carried his district, which spans the southwestern Chicago suburbs, by 11 points. Much of the district is new territory to Casten under the redrawn map.

His opponent, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, has trailed him significantly in fundraising. He raised $1.2 million through mid-October. Casten brought in $5.1 million in the same period. CLF’s ad warns Casten wants to raise taxes and uses footage of him saying, “A little bit of inflation would actually be a good thing.”

In a sign that Democrats are also concerned about the race, House Majority PAC went on air for Casten this week with a $650,000 buy.

The Congressional Leadership Fund is also placing another $1.2 million buy in New York targeting Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of House Democrats’ campaign arm, whose race has evolved into an expensive battleground campaign. The GOP super PAC is also dropping another $500,000 to target Democratic Rep. Mike Levin in southern California and another $600,000 to aid New York state Legislator Colin Schmitt, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan in a nearby district.