Vulnerable Democrats bet earmarks’ stigma has worn off

Washington — Dozens of at-risk House Democrats are betting that securing money for their constituents through earmarks will be somewhere between a net positive for their reelection campaigns and a neutral factor that won’t turn off undecided voters.

That’s something of a change from the Frontline program Democrats of the last Congress, who were concerned that Republicans would use the rebranded “community project funding” as a political weapon against them.

But House Democrats didn’t ultimately go through with restoring earmarks in the 116th Congress, and several of those endangered members lost their seats in 2020 anyway amid unexpected support for GOP candidates that left Democrats barely in control of the chamber.

Now, Democrats from swing districts are nearly all in on earmarks, with 31 of the 32 Democrats on the Frontline list requesting local funds from the Appropriations Committee.

Second-term Texas Rep. Colin Allred, who defeated longtime GOP Rep. Pete Sessions in 2018 and won reelection last year by a 6-point margin with nearly 52% of the vote, doesn’t expect earmarks will be used against him in the midterms.

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