Mayday PAC, a campaign finance reform group funded by several high-profile techies, suffered a major loss Tuesday night, when the group’s $600,000 bet on an underdog Republican candidate in New Hampshire went sour.
Republican Jim Rubens, a former New Hampshire state senator, collected about half as many votes as former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown for the right to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this fall.
Rubens’ loss wasn’t much of a surprise, since many Republicans still didn’t know who he was, one local poll showed, just a few weeks before the election. Brown mostly ignored Rubens and another Republican challenger through the primary to focus on Shaheen.
Nevertheless, the loss was a blow for Mayday PAC, which pledged to spend $600,000 to help Rubens win the race. The PAC launched TV ads and funded a get-out-the-vote campaign to help the Republican underdog.
The New Hampshire Republican primary was the first major race that Mayday PAC was fully engaged in, after raising nearly $8 million to fund candidates who support campaign finance reform.
The New Hampshire race represented a rough initiation in primary politics for Mayday co-founder Larry Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor. Local Democratic bloggers (who support campaign finance reform) questioned why Mayday would back Rubens. One said Mayday was essentially “lighting money on fire” in the race.
In a blog post, Lessig acknowledged Mayday PAC “lost badly” on Tuesday night.
“Losing big means we change some things,” Lessig wrote, without providing details. “What will change, of necessity, is the scope of our ambition. We are building a Mayday.US community at the same time as we’re executing these campaigns. This defeat forces me to rethink how much we can do right now.”
Mayday also drew fire in New Hampshire from local activists by joining forces with a libertarian super PAC which doesn’t even support campaign finance reform to back Rubens.
Lessig previously acknowledged “there’s been a bunch of frustration and anger” about reports of the alliance. He defended the move, arguing his PAC was only working together with the other group “to benefit the common ground we have found — support for Jim Rubens” and nothing else.
Mayday did have a victory last month when another candidate it backed, Ruben Gallego, a retired Marine, won a primary race in Arizona in a Democratic-leaning district which includes Phoenix. Mayday got involved in the race late, but spent some money on mailers to help Gallego. He’s not facing a Republican challenger in November.
Mayday has said it would back eight candidates this election cycle. However, it hasn’t announced the final three candidates it will support.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.