Democratic committee plans $745K in TV ads for 8th District race

U.S. Capitol
United States Capitol (Photo courtesy MGN Online)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- There are still five weeks until the Aug. 9 primary, but Democrats are already explaining big general election advertising plans to back Tom Nelson in Wisconsin's 8th Congressional District race.

Republican Reid Ribble is leaving the seat open after deciding not to run again. The district covers 11 Northeast Wisconsin counties and includes Green Bay and Appleton.

FOX 11 has learned the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $745,000 in advertising on Green Bay broadcast and cable television from Oct. 11 to Oct. 31.

The three Republicans on the primary ballot are Mike Gallagher, State Sen. Frank Lasee and Terry McNulty.

The primary winner will go on to face Nelson in November. There is no primary on the Democratic side.

Aaron Weinschenk, a political science professor at UW-Green Bay, says he expects plenty of spending on the open seat.

"I think this is one of the congressional races that is going to get national attention. It already is to some extent," said Weinschenk.

The $745,000 in advertising is significantly more than the last three election cycles combined when the DCCC put less than $13,000 toward the district.

"The fundamentals of this district are strong," said Matt Thornton, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "And we are confident that this seat will move into the Democratic column in November, especially with Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket."

The DCCC says it has reserved air time in fewer than 20 markets so far.

FOX 11 also asked the National Republican Congressional Committee about its plans.

"While the NRCC does not publicly discuss the size or scope of our media buys, we look forward to drawing attention to Tom Nelson's record of voting for $3 billion in higher taxes and fees on Wisconsin families and taking a taxpayer-funded pay raise," said Chris Pack, regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

State Republicans say Nelson's record is an "awful fit" for Wisconsin.

"Democrats are getting involved because they know Taxin' Tom Nelson will be a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi's priorities in Washington, D.C.," said Pat Garrett, Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman.

Weinschenk says he expects a competitive 8th District race in November.

"You're going to see all kinds of money being spent on that race," he said. "You're going to see the party committees funneling money in, super PACs. I think it's going to be huge spending."

The candidates' fundraising progress will be more clear after campaign finance reports are filed later this month.

The most recent report from the first three months of the year showed Gallagher with $507,281 on hand, while Lasee had $154,152 and McNulty had $2,103. Nelson didn't enter the race until April.

MORE | Click here to view the latest campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission

At the national level, Weinschenk says he thinks it's pretty unlikely the balance of power in the House will switch to Democrats this fall. Republicans currently hold 247 seats, and Democrats have 188.

"Anytime there's an instance where a party can take a seat back, or it's competitive, there is going to be an investment, even if it doesn't mean they can take over a full chamber," said Weinschenk.

For the 6th Congressional District in east-central Wisconsin, there is a two-way Democratic primary next month between Sarah Lloyd and Michael Slattery. The winner will face Republican incumbent Glenn Grothman in November.