National party help both a blessing and a curse for Roraback

Washington — State Sen. Andrew Roraback announced Thursday he has raised $554,605 in campaign funds in the last three months, about as much money as Elizabeth Esty, his Democratic rival for the 5th District congressional seat.

“I’m proud that so many people across the 5th District and Connecticut are supporting me and helping our campaign build the resources we need to get out my message and win in November,” Roraback said in a statement.

Roraback’s recent fundraising is a shot in the arm for his campaign, which has trailed Esty in raising campaign cash.

He’s also getting help from the national Republican Party in the form of a fundraiser hosted by House Speaker John Boehner, the Ohio congressman who’s the most powerful Republican in Washington, at the Hartford Club Tuesday.

Attendees to the luncheon fundraiser will each be able to donate up to $2,500, the federal contribution limit.

But there’s greater value in the visit. It shows that Roraback’s race against Esty is a priority for the national GOP, and it will give Roraback free media attention and a higher profile, in Connecticut and nationally.

“He’s winning and he’s running a very strong campaign,” said Nat Sillin, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee. “This is a real race.”

But help from Washington also has a price.

It allows Esty to continue to tie Roraback, who is running as a moderate, independent Republican, to the conservative national Republican Party and its agenda.

“John Boehner is coming to Connecticut to raise money for Andrew Roraback because he knows that Andrew Roraback is another vote to continue the extreme tea party agenda,” said Esty campaign spokesman Jeb Fain.

Esty is also receiving help from her national party, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to run a television ad that says Roraback would “fit in” with the most conservative wing of the Republican Party.

Roraback describes as “outright lies” the characterizations — including those in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee TV ad — that he would fall in line behind the policies of Boehner and other Washington Republicans.

Party leaders made Roraback a “Young Gun,” a designation that makes him eligible for special help.

But it’s clear he is conflicted about that help.

Last week, Roraback said he would welcome fundraising assistance from Boehner or other party leaders.

But he also said that help “would have to come on my terms.”