Much attention was paid to outside spending on Congressional races this year. But a Republican group based in a Washington suburb appears to have an an impact on several Pennsylvania state house contests, including one close race whose outcome is finally clear after a six-day recount. Democrat David Levdansky has represented his Allegheny County district for 25 years. But this year a Republican candidate Rick Saccone beat him by just over 100 votes. Levdansky said he’s been challenged before, but this election was different.
“Something I have not seen in my entire career was the enormous amount of outside money that was used to fund direct mail, ads that attacked my record of public service,” Levdansky said.The group that went after Levdansky is the Republican State Leadership Committee, or RSLC, based in Alexandria Virginia. Chris Jankowski, director the committee’s Red Map program, acknowledged that the RSLC targeted Levdansky’s seat.
“I would say that we spent in excess of a hundred fifty thousand (on the race),” Jankowski said, “and that includes quite a bit of mail and a late TV ad that was placed on cable TV systems in the district.” Jankowski said the committee raises national money to help Republicans in state legislative races. The group doesn’t do anonymous hits. It voluntarily reveals its donors, and its filings can be seen on the Internal Revenue Service website.
Jankowski says the RSLC targeted the Pennsylvania House so Republicans could control the re-drawing of Congressional boundaries next year. “The party that draws the lines tends to draw lines that favor their interests,” he said, “and we wanted to make sure that we had the pen so to speak in Republican hands as much as possible.”
Levdansky said there were a dozen negative mailings against him. Some, he said, included outright lies, like the allegation the he backed a $600 million Arlen Specter library.
Jankowski said that RSLC materials “may have taken a bit of artistic license, (but) did not state that was the actual price of the library.”
Jankowski noted that outside groups also assist Democratic campaigns. Levdansky said nobody helped him. Levdansky and a few other Democrats were defeated, and Republicans now control the Pennsylvania House.