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A Democratic veterans group is backing Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s Senate race

VoteVets can spend money to help Lamb in what’s shaping up to be a very expensive Senate race.

U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb is being endorsed by VoteVets, which can help spend money to support his primary bid and potentially help make up the financial gap with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb is being endorsed by VoteVets, which can help spend money to support his primary bid and potentially help make up the financial gap with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.Read moreBob Williams For The inquirer

A national Democratic group that supports veterans is jumping into Pennsylvania’s competitive U.S. Senate primary, endorsing U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb and potentially boosting his financial backing in what could be an expensive primary.

VoteVets endorsed Lamb for Senate on Thursday, throwing its muscle behind a former Marine prosecutor whom it supported in his previous House races. While it didn’t announce any financial commitment, VoteVets, like other similar organizations, can raise and spend without limit to support Lamb as Democratic contenders play catch-up with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who has raised the most money by far.

VoteVets emphasized Lamb’s history of winning in conservative districts, arguing that makes him Democrats’ best chance to win a swing-state race that could help decide control of the Senate.

“Conor Lamb is a winner, period,” Will Fischer, a VoteVets senior adviser and Iraq War veteran, said in a statement. “Republicans and Donald Trump have come for him again and again and again, and all he does is win.”

While some progressives view Lamb as too moderate, Fischer said the 2022 election “is no time to play around.”

”We need this Senate seat to go Democratic, to keep Mitch McConnell from controlling the Senate again,” he said, referring to Republicans’ Senate leader. “Conor is the one who can take that seat.”

» READ MORE: Conor Lamb just jumped into Pa.’s Senate race. He wants to be the centrist candidate.

Groups like VoteVets and other similar organizations can highlight key aspects of their chosen candidates’ biographies and spend money on the race without facing the typical fund-raising limits. Donors who have given Lamb the maximum allowed, for example, can turn to the VoteVets Super PAC if they want to contribute more. VoteVets could play a similar role for Lamb as the women’s group EMILY’s List likely will for another Democratic contender, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh — though EMILY’s List has far greater resources.

Super PACs are legally barred from directly coordinating with candidates but can still run ads touting them.

VoteVets spent about $31 million aiding Democrats and attacking Republicans in the 2020 elections, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That included $7.3 million on the crucial North Carolina Senate race that year and $3.6 million aiding Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign.

The group also endorsed former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania Democrats’ hotly contested 2016 Senate primary against Katie McGinty and Fetterman. McGinty, who had support from the Democratic establishment and EMILY’s List, won that primary.

» READ MORE: Here’s what fund-raising reports from Pa.’s 2022 Senate candidates tell us

The 2022 Democratic primary is shaping up as expensive, with Fetterman raising $6.6 million as of the latest public disclosures and Arkoosh bringing in $1 million. Lamb only entered the Senate race weeks ago but had raised $1.4 million through his House campaign account.

Lamb has used his time in the military and support from labor unions to help appeal to suburban moderates and some culturally conservative voters in his Western Pennsylvania districts, including one that had backed former President Donald Trump by nearly 20 percentage points. (He later moved to a more balanced but still conservative district after the state Supreme Court drew new lines.)

“Conor also never forgets where he comes from. He’s always been there for the people back home in the Commonwealth,” Fischer said. “He’s always been there for his fellow veterans.

» READ MORE: Assessing the Democratic field in Pa.'s 2022 U.S. Senate race