A crucial Bucks County congressional primary is heating up as two Democrats trade barbs in hopes of securing their party’s nomination for a shot at unseating Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. 

Fitzpatrick, who was narrowly elected to represent the politically moderate 8th Congressional District in 2016, is viewed as a particularly vulnerable Republican by Democratic strategists in Pennsylvania and across the nation. The pickup opportunity in the newly drawn 1st Congressional District has attracted three Democrats – Rachel Reddick, Scott Wallace and Steve Bacher. With polling showing Reddick and Wallace leading, the two rivals have ratcheted up attack ads on each other in recent weeks.

The most recent salvo started with Reddick, a former Navy prosecutor, running her first television spot – a placement that saw her describe Wallace, a lawyer and founder of an eponymous charitable foundation who was raised in the district, as a “Maryland multi-millionaire.” The ad asserts that he has spent too much time outside the county to be a viable choice.

“Scott Wallace isn’t one of us,” the ad ominously intones, before detailing Wallace’s past voter registration at a Maryland residence and an absentee ballot cast from another home in South Africa.

The Wallace campaign, which has been airing ads in the local media market since March, shot back with video from an Ottsville campaign stop that shows Reddick flubbing a question about the so-called “global gag rule.”

A bête noire for proponents of reproductive rights, the term refers to a federal policy preventing U.S. aid from flowing to any overseas non-governmental organization that offers abortion counseling or promotes abortion access. 

Reddick, who has championed her support for abortion rights, gave a non-answer when asked about her stance on the rule.

“I really think it’s important to ensure that we have enough information as Americans and to ensure that we know what we’re processing,” she replied.

Wallace’s campaign seized on the goof as evidence that Reddick was thin on progressive policy, harping on her past party affiliation.

“It is truly unacceptable that Rachel Reddick doesn’t know what the Global Gag Rule is,” said Wallace staffer Caitlin Johnson. “Reddick tried to fake her way through an answer, just like she’s been faking that she’s a Democrat when she’s been a registered Republican her entire life.”

The Reddick campaign quickly clarified the candidate’s position.

“Rachel is 100% pro-choice. She strongly opposes the global gag rule and will continue her fight for women in this country and around the world, and their right to make their own healthcare decisions,” wrote campaign manager Caroline Ross, in a Thursday email. "Rachel doesn't need a Maryland millionaire mansplaining to her about what women go through daily.”

It’s worth noting that the race had gone negative even before the recent air war. The Wallace campaign had circulated a series of mailers hitting Reddick over her past Republican affiliation across the district. A Wallace spokesperson claimed that Reddick had fired the first shot by describing Wallace as a “lobbyist” due to his work at the Legal Aid and Defender Association.

Bacher, a progressive activist who is campaigning on a platform that includes support for a “Medicare-for-all” plan, higher wages and renewable energy, said he was trying to stay above the he-said-she-said.

“We all agreed to avoid saying anything that could be used against the eventual nominee by the Republicans. I am sticking to that agreement,” he said.