Anuzis added that this kind of singularly focused super PAC, like the ones that formed to back President Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012, is becoming more and more common in smaller campaigns.
Zeldin isn't the only candidate howling about outside groups getting involved in races where they aren't welcome. In the 21st District, American Crossroads spent more than $750,000 running negative TV ads against Doheny, the only time this cycle the group has gone negative against a fellow Republican. Crossroads has run three TV ads so far criticizing Doheny for two separate charges of boating while intoxicated in 2004 and for failing to pay rent for a New York City apartment. Doheny faces establishment favorite Elise Stefanik, a 29-year-old former Bush White House aide.
Doheny has run two times before: In 2011, as Doheny was ramping up his second campaign against Democratic Rep. Bill Owens, Crossroads' nonprofit arm ran TV ads weakening the incumbent. The name recognition he had from his previous campaigns might have been the biggest factor in the primary — until Crossroads started pouring money on his head.
Doheny spokesman David Catalfamo said the ads only underscore Doheny's argument that he's the true local, while Stefanik is a Washington insider. "Neither candidate would be bad for the Republican brand," Catalfamo said. "Why are they getting involved? Because she's part of [the] Washington crowd and they want her to be their congressperson."
Catalfamo added that he expects a backlash among Crossroads donors who don't want their money spent against a Republican. "People are donating to them thinking they're taking down the president," he said.
New York 2014, a super PAC headed by 2006 gubernatorial candidate John Faso, has also supported Stefanik on the theory that she'd be stronger in this fall's general election. The group has spent nearly $375,000 supporting Stefanik, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
"Not taking anything away from [Doheny], but we felt that she's a stronger general election candidate," Faso said.
While the disputes in the 1st and 21st districts are between candidates with few policy differences, the 22nd District is a rare case in which same-sex marriage is the pivotal issue between two Republicans. American Unity PAC, which backs Republicans who support same-sex marriage, has spent more than $650,000 hammering Hanna's opponent, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney. The less well-funded National Organization for Marriage has spent slightly more than $20,000 supporting the more socially conservative Tenney.
The district is roughly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, but Hanna does not face a Democratic challenger — only a primary challenge from Tenney. Hanna has a significant financial advantage, spending more than five times as much as Tenney as of early June, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by American Unity, Patriot Prosperity PAC, and the Republican Mainstreet Partnership.