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Image: Elissa Slotkin
Elissa Slotkin attends a news conference with other members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee in Washington on May 26, 2021.Caroline Brehman / CQ Roll Call via AP

VoteVets unveils general election ad campaign of at least $20 million

The progressive veterans group expects to spend between $20 and $25 million on its midterm program.


VoteVets, a progressive veterans organization, is launching its general election advertising and mobilization campaign with new digital ads aimed at boosting the bipartisan credentials of five incumbent Democrats with military or national security experience.

The $1.5 million digital ad buy supports Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin, Mich., Elaine Luria, Va., Abigail Spanberger, Va., Mikie Sherrill, N.J., and Chrissy Houlahan, PA. The ads are similar across all five races, focusing on various pieces of legislation and how each represent "bipartisanship that works" for their communities.

And it's an opening salvo in a general election investment the group expects to cost between $20 and $25 million.

Jon Soltz, a military veteran who chairs VoteVets, told NBC News that with a "wide open" House map, his group wants to move quickly to make sure these Democratic incumbents get some cover during the summer months.

"What we want to do for Elissa Slotkin and Abigail Spanberger, for instance, is to spend early on digital in places where we know we're softer than we need to be to drive up their positives and tell people: They're not the problem in D.C., they're part of the solution," Soltz said.

"We don't want to lose these five women. We're prioritizing them."

Soltz outlined three goals for his group's general election push — continuing to back veteran candidates with endorsements and spending, protect the Senate and the group's issue priorities, and build out its get-out-the-vote program, which includes continuing to develop its voter file of veterans.

VoteVets has already spent $3 million attacking Republican Herschel Walker over his ties to a group accused of bilking veterans. Walker's campaign accused the AP, which reported on Walker's involvement with the group, of "demonizing Herschel for being the face of an organization for 14 years that has helped tens of thousands of soldiers suffering from mental illness.”

As to where else the group plans to spend, Soltz pointed to the large constellation of Democratic outside groups playing in House and Senate races and said he'll target places where he believes the veteran-focused message will be especially successful and won't be duplicative of their allies' work. And he added that they want to also take advantage of open seats in heavily Democratic areas where a new member could conceivably remain in Congress for a long tenure.

“If we fight everywhere we fight nowhere, so where can we mass our money to really make a difference?" he explained, comparing the goal for a successful partnership with other outside groups to how the American military can "combine multiple weapons systems at a decisive point."

And while some Democrats have questioned whether a focus on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is a fruitful campaign issue with polling showing issues like inflation and cost of living are weighing heavily on Americans, Soltz emphatically said the group won't shy away from focusing on the Capitol riot.

"When you see people destroying our Capitol and you see leaders that were silent, those people don’t love this country. And so it’s a values question. We’ve tested it — especially with law enforcement, people being attacked — and we see value in that argument," he said.

"You have to deal with inflation, it’s the number one issue. And you have to show that the [opposing] candidate doesn’t share your values. This is a values question.”