POLITICS: PennAve

Senate Conservatives Fund wades further into House races

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Politics,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,Senate Conservatives Fund

The Senate Conservatives Fund is no longer focusing solely on reshaping the Senate.

Now, the polarizing conservative outside group will also turn its attention and money to some House races, announcing Tuesday its endorsement in four safe Republican districts and one other district likely to be a toss-up.

"Many of you have encouraged us to expand our efforts into a few House races this year, so that's what we're going to do," SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins said in an email to supporters.

The Senate Conservatives Fund has built its reputation and bank account by backing conservative candidates in Republican primary races, mostly for solidly GOP seats, in an effort to skew Senate Republicans more to the right ideologically.

But the group has also attracted widespread controversy and scorn from within the Republican Party for spending big money to affect battleground-state primaries — with, in a few instances, the result of flawed Republican candidates losing in the general election.

Until now, the SCF has only once endorsed a House candidate: Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla. The group diverged from Senate races in that case, Hoskins said at the time, in hopes of grooming Bridenstine to one day run for the Senate.

With the fresh round of House endorsements, the group's farm team could soon expand.

But some moderate Republicans will likely frown upon the chosen candidates, including Bryan Smith, who is challenging Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho — an ally of Speaker John Boehner and a relatively moderate member of the House Republican Conference.

Another SCF-approved candidate, Matt Schultz, is running to replace retiring Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, a moderate Republican and close friend to Boehner. Schultz has been endorsed by former Sen. Rick Santorum, who will campaign for Schultz in Iowa in March.

The SCF will also throw its support behind Chad Mathis, of Alabama; Barry Loudermilk, of Georgia; and Alex Mooney, of West Virginia.

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