Earlier this year, Virginia suffered a horrific tragedy when a gunman walked into the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, shooting and killing 12 people and wounding 17 others. Voters in the Commonwealth know what happened next: The Governor called a special session to address gun violence. Republican lawmakers acted as if they might consider passing new laws. Instead, when it came time to act, Republicans voted to end the special session after just 90 minutes, without any votes on gun safety legislation — blocking common-sense measures like background checks on all gun sales and red flag legislation.
Since then, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund have spent more than $2.5 million — a record amount for us in a Virginia election — in order to flip the General Assembly to a gun sense majority. Just as importantly, the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action has spent months knocking on tens of thousands of doors and making tens of thousands of calls to elect gun sense champions. The investment makes Everytown the largest outside spender in Virginia’s 2019 elections, where we are outspending the NRA by more than eight-to-one, and out-organizing the NRA on the ground.
TARGETING THE MOST COMPETITIVE RACES WITH AGGRESSIVE TV, DIGITAL AND DIRECT MAIL
On November 5, each of Virginia’s 140 state House and Senate seats are on the ballot, and at least two seats will need to flip in each chamber to shift the General Assembly to a gun sense majority. In order to do so, our electoral work has focused on 22 of the most competitive Senate and House districts in the state, where we have endorsed Gun Sense Candidates, with a particular focus on 15 Republican-held seats spread across the swing areas of Richmond, Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. Specific district targets include: HD-10, HD-13, HD-21, HD-27, HD-28, HD-31, HD-40, HD-51, HD-66, HD-73, HD-76, HD-81, HD-83, HD-84, HD-85, HD-91, HD-94, SD-07, SD-08, SD-10, SD-12, and SD-13.
Our work in Virginia has included:
- Helping fund gun safety-themed television ads in competitive races across the state, including ads for Missy Cotter Smasal in SD-8, Debra Rodman in SD-12; John Bell in SD-13 and Sheila Bynum-Coleman in HD-66;
- Digital advertising campaigns across multiple channels, with a focus on our 15 offensive targets;
- Direct mail including 75 pieces of direct mail in Republican-held districts across Virginia;
- Direct contributions to candidates and political committees;
- And countless hours of canvassing and phone-banking help from our grassroots army of Moms Demand Action volunteers in Virginia, and across the country.
POLLS SHOW GUN SAFETY IS THE TOP ISSUE IN VIRGINIA’S 2019 ELECTIONS
Public polling by the Washington Post confirmed that gun policy is the top issue for voters ahead of Virginia’s 2019 elections, ahead of education, health care and the economy.
In order to maximize our impact in competitive races, we conducted our own extensive polling, including a Battleground Message Survey. The survey found that across the swing areas of Richmond, Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, gun safety-themed messages resonated the most with voters — more than messages centered around healthcare, the economy and the environment.
NRA ‘A’ RATED REPUBLICANS PRETENDING TO SUPPORT GUN SAFETY IN ORDER TO GET REELECTED
With gun safety as the top issue for voters in Virginia’s elections, something unexpected has happened: NRA ‘A’ rated Republicans are now pretending to support gun safety, blatantly misleading voters about their own records in order to get elected. Make no mistake: these Republicans’ records on gun safety — which include voting to block common-sense gun laws by ending the special session on gun violence after just 90 minutes — do not match their newfound campaign rhetoric. A few examples:
- In Senate District 12 — the most expensive Senate race in Virginia — Republican Senator Siobhan Dunnavant isn’t talking about her NRA ‘A’ grade. Instead, she’s brazenly running a television ad invoking Moms Demand Action, and touting her supposed support for banning bump stocks, a policy she voted against in the Senate. Her opponent, Delegate Debra Rodman, has run multiple TV ads on gun safety, including a TV ad highlighting Dunnavant’s hypocrisy.
- In Senate District 10, NRA ‘A’ rated Republican Senator Glen Sturtevant has run a television ad and direct mail claiming to support gun violence prevention, while hiding his NRA endorsement from his campaign website. His opponent, Ghazala Hashmi, is calling out Sturtevant on television, too.
- In House District 40, NRA ‘A’ rated Delegate Tim Hugo is also promising action on gun safety. The truth is he’s spent his career voting against common-sense gun laws — that’s why he’s been endorsed by the NRA in his campaign against gun safety champion Dan Helmer, who is also holding Delegate Hugo accountable on television.
BOTTOM LINE: GUN SAFETY IS A WINNER AT THE BALLOT BOX
Three things are clear when you look at what’s happening in Virginia: Gun safety is unquestionably a vote getter, voters view the NRA as toxic, and Everytown and Moms Demand Action are prepared to hold accountable those lawmakers who’ve put the gun lobby ahead of public safety.