Rep. Eric Cantor probably didn't see this coming. The House GOP majority leader's attempt to intervene in a Republican primary in Illinois has become fodder for an intramural Democratic Party tangle 1,500 miles away in Texas.
Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, has been doing damage control this week over a $25,000 donation to the anti-incumbent Campaign for Primary Accountability super PAC that was meant to help Rep. Adam Kinzinger defeat fellow GOP Rep. Don Manzullo in a redrawn Illinois district.
Kinzinger won, but Cantor's donation had members of his own caucus up in arms over his support for a super PAC that also targets Republicans, including Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) -- along with incumbent Democrats. Cantor said he had "earmarked" his money for the Kinzinger-Manzullo race, but the super PAC said there was no such agreement.
Now the campaign of Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) is blasting Democratic primary challenger Beto O'Rourke over the Cantor donation. While the Campaign for Primary Accountability has not actually spent any money on the Texas race, it has said it will target Reyes, who has served in Congress since 1997.
"At the end of the day, the same Campaign for Primary Accountability that is supporting Beto O'Rourke is being funded by right-wing ideologues and people like Eric Cantor," Reyes spokesman Jose Borjon said.
And Reyes's campaign is taking things further, with a chart on its website linking O'Rourke to Cantor on issues like means-testing for Social Security benefits.
"A lot of the positions by Beto O'Rourke are similar if not identical to Eric Cantor," Borjon said.
That comes as news to O'Rourke, whose most vocal stances on the El Paso City Council included partner benefits for same-sex couples and ending the prohibition of marijuana. A former representative on the El Paso City Council, O'Rourke has styled himself as the progressive in the race.
"I really don't know what to say," O'Rourke responded. "It is kind of a typical Reyes scare tactic."
Asked for similarities with Cantor's politics, O'Rourke said "I actually don't know much about Eric Cantor at all, but if he is emblematic about Republican ideology, I would say none."
A spokesman for the Campaign for Primary Accountability, Curtis Ellis, said even though Cantor's money was not "earmarked," it was spent on the Manzullo race.
"The money that Eric Cantor in his foresight sent to CPA to dislodge entrenched incumbents was spent in the Kinzinger-Manzullo race," Ellis said.
Nevertheless the political chaos Campaign for Primary Accountability has sown in races across the country by taking on both Democrats and Republicans will continue -- and Cantor's donation will make the Super PAC's involvement in races more controversial.
Ellis said his Super PAC's only agenda is defeating entrenched incumbents. "We have candidates and donors who are diametrically opposed on the political spectrum."
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