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Challenger accuses Ukrainian-born congresswoman of putting ‘Ukraine first’

After
Russia
invaded
Ukraine
in
2022,
Rep.
Victoria
Spartz
(Ind.)
emerged
as
a
leading
Republican
voice
on
the
conflict.
Spartz,
the
first
Ukrainian-born
immigrant
to
serve
in
the
U.S.
Congress,
spoke
passionately
about
the
war-torn
country’s
need
for
assistance
and
appeared
with
President
Biden
to
advance
the
cause.

Now,
Spartz’s
commitment
to
her
homeland
is
being
called
into
question
by
a
well-funded
primary
challenger,
underscoring
the
internal
Republican
divide
that
is
complicating
the
hopes
of
House
Speaker
Mike
Johnson
(R-La.)
to
revisit
Ukraine
aid
next
week.

Spartz’s
opponent,
Chuck
Goodrich,
is
airing
television
ads
accusing
Spartz
of
putting
“Ukraine
first,”
prioritizing
aid
for
the
country
over
securing
U.S.
borders.
She
strongly
denies
the
claim.

The
spat
is
unfolding
ahead
of
Indiana’s
May
7
primary,
where
Spartz
faces
a
crowded
field
of
primary
challengers
after

reversing
her
decision
in
February

to
not
seek
reelection.
Goodrich,
an
Indiana
state
representative,
has
loaned
his
campaign
$1
million
and
stood
out
as
the
top
TV
advertiser.


Goodrich’s
latest
ad

says
Spartz
sent
“40
billion
of
our
tax
dollars
to
Ukraine
before
the
border
wall
is
finished,”
an
apparent
reference
to
her
vote
for
an
aid
package
that
the
House

passed
in
May
2022
.
The
spot
also
shows
images
of
Spartz
with
Biden
in
the
Oval
Office
that
month
as
he

signed
into
law

a
bipartisan
bill
to
speed
up
the
process
of
sending
military
aid
to
Ukraine.

Since
then,
Republicans
have
become
more
divided
on
the
need
to
continue
helping
Ukraine,
especially
as
some
call
for
prioritizing
the
security
of
U.S.
borders.

Spartz
blasted
Goodrich’s
ad
in
an
email
to
supporters
last
week,
calling
him
a
“lying
corrupt
RINO,”
short
for
Republican
in
Name
Only.
Spartz
said
she
was
the
first
to
call
for
audits
of
Ukraine
aid,
and
noted
that
both
the
White
House
and
Ukrainian
government
have
criticized
her
positions
on
the
war.

“When
she
walks
through
her
position
and
America’s
geopolitical
interests,
voters
find
themselves
much
more
in
agreement
with
her
than
one
might
expect
looking
at
TV
ads,”
Spartz’s
campaign
consultant,
Dan
Hazelwood,
said
in
a
statement.
“Her
position
of
no
blank
checks,
accountability
and
defense
of
freedom
resonate
with
80%
of
her
district.”

On
Wednesday,
Spartz’s
campaign
ramped
up
its
pushback,
launching
a

TV
ad

that
accuses
Goodrich
of
putting
“China
first.”

The
issue
of
Ukraine
is
personal
for
Spartz.
She
was

born
in
Soviet-controlled
Ukraine

in
1978
and
immigrated
to
the
United
States
in
2000
after
meeting
her
husband
on
a
train
in
Europe.

Spartz
was

initially
a
natural
choice

to
lead
the
GOP
response
to
Russia’s
invasion
of
Ukraine.
But
the
lawmaker
has
come
to
stake
out
more
complicated
positions
on
the
war
than
other
lawmakers
in
either
party.

Weeks
after
voting
for
the
aid
package
in
2022,
Spartz

released
a
statement

that
criticized
both
Biden
and
Ukrainian
President
Volodymyr
Zelensky
over
their
approaches
to
the
war,
telling
them
to
“stop
playing
politics.”
She
specifically
said
Zelensky
needs
to
“start
governing
to
better
support
his
military
and
local
governments”

rare
U.S.
criticism
of
the
Ukrainian
leader
at
the
time.

In
another
jab
at
Zelensky,
Spartz

asked
Biden
to
brief
Congress

on
years-old
accusations
against
the
Ukrainian
leader’s
chief
of
staff,

prompting
a
rebuke

from
Ukraine’s
Foreign
Ministry.

In
an

op-ed
last
month
,
Spartz
decried
what
she
said
was
the
“false
choice”
of
either
giving
Ukraine
an
“unlimited
blank
check”
or
getting
criticized
as
“pro-Putin.”

Spartz
has
become
more
broadly
known
for
her
unpredictability.
She

took
different
positions

throughout
then-Rep.
Kevin
McCarthy’s
15-round
speakership
election
in
2023,
ultimately
supporting
him

and
then

criticizing
him
as
“weak”

during
a
government
shutdown
debate
months
later.
A
former
McCarthy
aide,
Max
Engling,
is
now
among
Spartz’s
primary
opponents.

It
was
no
surprise
to
Spartz’s
colleagues
that
she
was
retiring
after
vocally
expressing
discontent
with
the
GOP
conference,
only
to
again
flip
on
that
decision.

There
is
a
feeling
among
lawmakers
that
she
would
not
be
missed,
while
GOP
campaign
strategists
are
letting
the
primary
play
out
without
interfering
in
support
of
her
or
against.
Several
campaign
strategists
have
noted
the
difficulty
she
has
had
in
regaining
support
from
her
constituents
after
Goodrich
made
inroads
campaigning
for
the
months
while
she
was
out
of
the
race.

Johnson
has
indicated
he
wants
to
advance
a
new
Ukraine
aid
package
when
the
House
returns
next
week.
But
he
will
have
to
find
a
way
to
work
around
an
isolationist
wing
of
his
party
that
has
threatened
to
derail
his
speakership
over
it.

Rep.
Marjorie
Taylor
Greene
(R-Ga.),
a
vocal
skeptic
of
further
Ukraine
aid,
filed
a
motion
to
oust
Johnson
last
month
as
he
leaned
on
Democrats
to
pass
a
government
funding
package.

“I
can
promise
you,
if
you
put
a
Ukraine
bill
on
the
floor
and
you
haven’t
secured
the
border,
there’s
going
to
be
a
problem
within
the
ranks
and
on
Capitol
Hill,”
Rep.
Chip
Roy
(R-Tex.)
said
days
later
on
CNN’s
“State
of
the
Union.”

Spartz
represents
Indiana’s
5th
Congressional
District,
which
is
anchored
by
the
northern
suburbs
of
Indianapolis.
It
was
a
battleground
seat
when
she
first
won
election
in
2020,
but
redistricting
turned
it
into
a
GOP
stronghold
starting
with
the
2022
election.

Spartz
announced
in
February
2023
she
would
not
seek
reelection,
saying
she
wanted
to
spend
more
time
with
family.
But
she
reversed
course
in
February,
days
before
the
filing
deadline.

Goodrich
stuck
with
his
campaign
and
has
been
airing
increasingly
negative
ads
against
Spartz.
In

an
earlier
commercial
,
he
said
Spartz
has
“failed
us”
while
she
“focuses
on
Europe’s
problems.”

“Chuck
Goodrich
thinks
we
need
to
build
the
wall
and
secure
the
border
first
instead
of
continuing
to
send
blank
checks
to
Ukraine,”
Goodrich
campaign
spokesman
Kyle
Kasting
said
in
a
statement.
“Victoria
Spartz
stood
with
President
Biden
and
supported
40
billion
dollars
of
aid
that,
among
other
things,
funded
Ukrainian
pensions
and
Ukrainian
business
bailouts.”

Spartz’s
campaign
argues
the
southern
border
is
also
a
priority
for
her.

She
was
among
the
majority
of
House
Republicans
who
voted
against
the
$1.2
trillion
bill
to
avert
a
government
shutdown.
She

told
an
Indianapolis
radio
station
afterward

that
“one
of
the
big
reasons”
she
opposed
the
legislation
was
that
it
did
not
do
enough
to
secure
the
border.

“Border
is
extremely
important,
and
I
was
very,
very
disappointed”
with
the
funding
bill,
Spartz
said.

At
the
same
time,
she
has
not
entirely
shied
away
from
Ukraine
in
her
campaign.
Spartz

released
an
ad
last
month

in
which
she
says
she
“grew
up
under
socialist
tyranny,
and
I
will
never
let
you
down.”


Marianna
Sotomayor
contributed
to
this
report.

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