The nation’s largest gun-control group is pouring big money into a local Colorado statehouse race.
Everytown for Gun Safety announced a $1 million investment to boost state Senate candidate Tom Sullivan (D.). The investment, which matches how much they’ve spent in some of the most significant federal elections, is aimed at keeping Colorado’s state legislature in Democratic hands. It is part of a larger $2.7 million Colorado ad buy against Republican candidates at the federal and state level, especially Sullivan’s opponent Tom Kim.
“Everytown is incredibly proud to defend the gun sense majority in the Colorado statehouse, especially against candidates like Tom Kim who will put gun lobby profits ahead of public safety,” John Feinblatt, the group’s president, said in a statement.
The high-dollar investment in a state race represents a departure from the group’s recent spending in prominent national races. It could indicate that the group feels vulnerable in what has been a blue-trending state in recent years. The group’s spending in this one Colorado state Senate race matches what it has spent thus far on the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin against Senator Ron Johnson (R.), a potentially vulnerable incumbent.
Colorado has been one of the rare states where gun-control legislation has gained ground in recent years. While dozens of other states have made moves to liberalize their gun laws over the last decade, the once-purple Colorado has passed magazine capacity limits, universal background checks, “red-flag” legislation, and repealed a state prohibition on local gun laws during the same period.
Democrats enjoy unified control of the legislature and the Governor’s seat after successfully flipping the state senate in 2018. The party now holds a 21-14 seat advantage in the chamber. Still, with a favorable political climate for Republicans and eight competitive senate seats up for grabs this election, the Colorado GOP has its best opportunity in years to regain a majority.
Kim called Everytown’s big investment in the race “an example of the gun control lobby trying to buy elections.” Kim said the group’s tactics are about “creating fear” around gun policy to deflect from his opponent’s failure to produce solutions to rising crime.
“If gun control was really about public safety, then my opponent would have proposed legislation to support mental health programs or provide school resource officers in more public schools,” Kim told The Reload. “Instead, he is abusing government power to strip away our most fundamental rights as Americans. Crime is the highest it has been in two decades. We should focus on making sure law enforcement officers have the resources they need to do their job and keep our community safe. Especially our most vulnerable. Creating fear is not an effective alternative.”
Everytown said its new spending would go towards television and digital ads attacking Kim over his endorsement from the NRA, among other things.
“Tom Kim was hand-picked by the gun lobby,” the first ad begins. “He comes from the gun industry. He’s backed by extreme gun lobby groups. And if elected, he’ll do their bidding. He’s promised to end background checks, allow dangerous people to carry guns in public, and do away with safe storage laws.”
In keeping with the group’s current strategy, the ad also departs from Everytown’s core mission by heavily featuring the issue of abortion.
“But Tom Kim’s extremism doesn’t stop there,” the ad continues. “He’s against a woman’s right to choose, and he could vote to criminalize abortion in our state — even in cases of rape or incest. Tom Kim is way too extreme for Colorado.”
Sullivan, who is currently an active state representative, became a prominent voice for gun control in Colorado politics after losing his son in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. He unseated a Republican incumbent state representative in 2018 and is now vying for one of the key seats that could determine the balance of power in the Colorado legislature.
In recent years, Sullivan has played a key role in advancing many gun-control bills through the state assembly. He was the prime sponsor of the state’s so-called red flag law, a measure to ban open carry near voting locations, a bill creating a state agency dedicated to “gun-violence prevention,” and a bill making it a crime if a gun owner fails to report a stolen firearm within 48 hours.
“After his son was murdered in the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Tom Sullivan somehow found the strength to rebuild his life around sparing other families from tragedy,” Feinblatt said in a statement.
Tom Kim, a local businessman, is a first-time political candidate and does not have an extensive public record on guns. The NRA’s PAC endorsed Kim and gave him an A rating based on his answers to the group’s candidate questionnaire.
The NRA did not respond to questions on whether it plans to invest in the race to counter Everytown’s spending.
UPDATE 12:35 PM EASTERN 10-26-2022: This piece has been updated with comment from Colorado state senate candidate Tom Kim.