The race pits distillery owner Denver Riggleman against journalist Leslie Cockburn, who has been running an unapologetically liberal campaign in a district that includes the college town of Charlottesville but also a huge swath of rural Virginia stretching south to the North Carolina border.
The CLF reservation was confirmed by two people familiar with the purchase and extends through Election Day. It comes a day after a New York Times/Siena College poll found the race to be a toss-up, with 1 in 10 voters undecided.
Most forecasters have called the race a stretch for Democrats. The Cook Political Report, for instance, rates it as leaning Republican, and national party committees have largely stayed out of the fray as they view the battle for the House majority playing out in other districts.
Cockburn has outraised Riggleman more than 2 to 1. She had just over $1 million to spend in the final month of the race, according to federal campaign reports, vs. $505,000 for Riggleman. Both candidates have support from outside groups as well: Cockburn has the backing of Women Vote, a super PAC affiliated with Emily’s List, while the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund has aired ads attacking her.
But the decision of a top Republican group to spend its resources in the race reflects the expanding battlefield that has benefited Democrats by forcing national Republican groups to spread their dollars among many more districts.
Cockburn spokeswoman Louise Bruce said super PACs like CLF “are going to realize that you can’t buy the grassroots movement we see sweeping across this district.”
“The voters of the 5th District are hungry for change and are going to reject the same old tired playbook that CLF and other dark money groups use to manipulate our democracy,” Bruce said in an email.
Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.