The internal clash within the Democratic Party over the contested Orange County seat, currently held by Rep. Katie Porter, is escalating into one of California’s most contentious primary battles.
In the latest exchange of attacks, State Senator Dave Min has released an ad accusing his Democratic rival, Joanna Weiss, of funding her campaign with money earned from defending sex offenders in legal cases. This comes in response to an earlier ad from Weiss criticizing Min for a DUI arrest last year.
The public display of hostility through attack ads marks the culmination of a long-standing feud between the two Democratic contenders, which has been unfolding behind the scenes within Democratic circles for several months.
Both camps have been lobbying party leaders and activists, attempting to convince them that their opponent’s baggage could jeopardize the Democrats’ chances of retaining the swing seat, which holds the potential to influence the balance of power in the House after the November elections.
Now, the ongoing arguments within the party have spilled onto the airwaves, heightening the risk that either Democratic candidate may emerge from the primary weakened, making them more susceptible to a challenge from the likely Republican contender, Scott Baugh.
Baugh, a former Republican lawmaker, has garnered substantial support from the GOP establishment and amassed significant campaign funds in anticipation of the general election.
Min’s attack ad, part of a substantial digital and streaming buy, questions Weiss’s funding sources, alleging that she and her husband made millions defending Catholic priests involved in sex abuse cases in Orange County.
The ad cites a Daily Beast report detailing the legal work of Weiss’s husband, attorney Jason Weiss, on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Orange County.
Campaign manager Dan Driscoll labeled the reported legal work as “disgusting” and “disqualifying,” emphasizing Min’s support for survivors of sexual abuse. Weiss’s campaign contested the allegations, clarifying that the money she used for her campaign came from refinancing her house, not her husband’s legal earnings.
The ongoing battle has intensified due to the strategic importance of the Orange County seat, and the Democratic infighting may play into the hands of the Republicans. Scott Baugh, who narrowly missed defeating Porter in 2022, has consolidated significant support from the GOP establishment, positioning himself as a formidable challenger.
Weiss’s campaign hit back at Min, accusing him of spreading lies to divert attention from his DUI arrest. The campaign asserted that the money Weiss loaned to her campaign was from refinancing her house, and not from her husband’s earnings.
Min’s DUI arrest has been a focal point of the Democratic primary contest, with Weiss and her allies arguing that it could make Min vulnerable to Republican attacks and potentially cost Democrats the seat. Weiss has secured support from EMILY’s List, a pro-abortion rights group, which has invested $1 million in a television and digital ad campaign to boost her candidacy.
While some national Democrats express concerns about Min’s electability, he has maintained support, including an early endorsement from Rep. Katie Porter, backing from the state Democratic Party, and the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times editorial board.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has yet to take sides in the primary, leaving both Min and Weiss to make their case directly to voters. The intensifying primary battle risks dividing the Democratic base and could impact the party’s chances in the general election against Scott Baugh.