Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund, the campaign arm of the national gun-control group co-founded by former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, is launching a $1 million TV and digital advertising buy in Colorado on Tuesday that ties Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association.
The group in June endorsed former Gov. John Hickenlooper, Gardner's Democratic challenger, and announced it planned to spend at least $60 million to elect supporters of its gun safety agenda, doubling what the organization spent in the last election cycle.
Hickenlooper is one of 11 Democratic U.S. Senate candidates backed by Everytown, which has kicked its spending into high gear in recent weeks. The ad is its first foray into Colorado's race, considered crucial to Democrats' hopes of winning control of the Senate.
The group's 30-second Colorado spot, made available before its release to Colorado Politics, links the death tolls from firearms and the COVID-19 pandemic, slamming Gardner for siding with Trump and benefiting from the NRA's support.
"It's been four deadly years in America," the narrator of the ad says. "Donald Trump downplayed the coronavirus and now over 200,000 are dead. More Americans are dying from gun violence every day.
Over footage of Gardner shaking hands with Trump at a February rally in Colorado Springs, the ad's narrator continues: "Cory Gardner not only stands by Donald Trump, he also stands with the gun lobby." The ad goes on to say the NRA has spent $3.8 million supporting Gardner while the Republican voted against requiring universal background checks on gun purchases.
The group said a survey it conducted in swing states earlier this year found that political messages about COVID-19 and gun violence were particularly effective moving voters. Another survey commissioned by the group showed support for universal background checks had surged since before the pandemic.
“Coloradans know the pain of both mass shootings and daily gun violence all too well, but that hasn’t stopped Cory Gardner from accepting the gun lobby’s money and blocking common-sense gun safety bills,” said John Feinblatt, Eveerytown's president, in a statement. “Gardner has made it clear he votes in lockstep with Trump and the gun lobby regardless of what the people of Colorado want, so Everytown is going to help the people vote him out."
The NRA's Political Victory Fund has been spending modestly since June to support Gardner with phone banks, a texting program and door-to-door canvassing, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Over his career — including two successful runs for Congress before winning the Senate seat six years ago — Gardner has received more support from the NRA than any other member of Colorado's congressional delegation.
Jessica Price, a volunteer with the Colorado chapter of Everytown's sister organization Moms Demand Action, criticized Gardner for sticking with Trump and the NRA as the death count rises in what she described as two public health crises, gun violence and the pandemic.
Added Price: “This election is life and death for Colorado.”
Recent polling shows Hickenlooper maintaining a lead over Gardner, though the race appears to be tightening.
The Cook Political Report last week moved the race from its toss-up column to "lean Democratic," citing Hickenlooper's consistent lead in polls and Gardner's announcement he supports Republican plans to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death before the election.
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