State Watch

Virginia Democrats to run gun control ads in tight state races

One of the largest gun safety groups in the country is taking the political fight to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) back yard by funding new TV advertisements in Virginia, where legislation to address mass shootings stalled earlier this year.
Everytown for Gun Safety, the group funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has donated $175,000 to two Democrats running in potential toss-up races to fund the ads.
{mosads}One spot, slated to begin running Tuesday, features Sheila Bynum-Coleman, a Democrat challenging state House Speaker Kirk Cox (R) in Richmond.
The Republican lawmaker blocked consideration of several gun control bills in a special session in June called by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in the wake of a shooting in Virginia Beach that left 13 people dead. Cox called the special session an “election year stunt.”
“During the special session on guns, Speaker Cox worked for the gun lobby, not us. He shut the session down in 90 minutes with no votes,” Bynum-Coleman says in one of the ads. “Kirk Cox cares more about the gun lobby than our families.”
The second spot, on behalf of state Rep. John Bell (D), running for a state Senate seat in Loudoun and Prince William counties, also cites the special session.
“I’m not afraid of the NRA, especially when it comes to keeping our kids safe,” Bell says in his ad.
Neither Cox’s campaign nor the NRA immediately responded to requests for comment.
Both Bynum-Coleman and Bell are running for office in districts former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but which are currently held by Republicans. A federal court ordered several Virginia legislative districts redrawn ahead of the 2019 elections, giving Democrats a strong chance to pick up the single seat they need to win control of the state Senate and the two seats they need to win back the House of Delegates.
Outside groups have poured millions into the races in what they hope will be a preview of the 2020 landscape to come, with Everytown committing to spend $2.5 million on this year’s contests. Virginia’s campaign finance laws allow the group to give directly to Bynum-Coleman’s and Bell’s campaigns to fund the advertising.
The ads are the latest reflection of a changing debate over gun control, once the third rail of American politics, especially among suburban, exurban and rural Democrats. Those attitudes have changed as the epidemic of mass shootings mounts — even in a state like Virginia, where the NRA is headquartered.
“In the wake of the Virginia Beach mass shooting, Republican lawmakers chose to protect the gun lobby, so now Everytown is going all-out to elect leaders who realize their first duty is protecting the people,” said John Feinblatt, who heads the group.
Tags Everytown for Gun Safety Gun control gun violence Hillary Clinton Mass shootings Michael Bloomberg richmond Virginia

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