AP Photo/ Cheryl Sente
Michael Bloomberg’s pet gun control group Everytown For Gun Safety says it will spend $8-million in Texas in the 2020 elections, hoping to use the same playbook that allowed Democrats in Virginia to gain control of state government in November of 2019. In that race, Everytown and Bloomberg spent more than $3-million targeting a dozen or so suburban swing districts, but as they say, everything’s bigger in Texas, including the money the anti-gun group plans on elect anti-gun politicians.
The Texas piece of its overall 2020 electoral program, “Gun Sense Majority: Texas,” will focus on state and congressional races, Everytown said on a call with reporters.
The group announced its plan to spend at least $60 million in the 2020 election nationally in January. Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a co-founder of Everytown and is the organization’s largest donor.
“In 2020, we’re turning our eyes to the great state of Texas. … I have seen firsthand over the last decade or so this shift in how Texans view gun violence,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, said on the call.
Everytown said it is engaging to reelect Texas Democratic Reps. Lizzie Fletcher and Colin Allred and to elect “gun sense candidates” to the seats of retiring Texas Republican Reps. Pete Olson, Will Hurd and Kenny Marchant. They also will support challengers to Texas Republican Reps. Dan Crenshaw, Michael McCaul, Chip Roy and John Carter.
In the State House, Everytown plans on engaging in 20 districts and said it needs to flip nine seats to have a “gun sense majority.”
Texas isn’t as rock-solid red as you might think it is. Not only did Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke come within a few points of defeating Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, as The Hill notes, Democrats only need to flip nine seats in the 150-seat state House in order to have an anti-gun majority. That’s not impossible, and Everytown thinks it has they can replicate their strategy in Texas just as they did in Virginia.
Expect a lot of ads in the Houston, Dallas, and Austin media targeting suburban moms with messages like “you shouldn’t be afraid to send your kid to school” and ”
Here’s an ad that Everytown ran in support of a Virginia House candidate in the Richmond suburbs who was challenging Republican Kirk Cox, the Speaker of the House of Delegates. Cox survived his re-election bid, but the ad is a pretty good example of what Texans can expect to see in the months ahead.
It’s a 30-second ad, so it’s not going to get into the nitty gritty details of the gun control proposals supported by the candidate. Instead, there’ll be a line or two about protecting families with “commonsense” gun safety measures like universal background checks and “keeping guns out of dangerous hands.”
Then the ad will pivot. The ad will declare that after the shooting in El Paso in August of 2019, “Republicans like _____ did nothing to protect Texans. Instead, they protected the gun lobby.”
It’s a simple message; “I’ll protect you.”In Virginia, it was effective enough to win control of the General Assembly. However, Texas might be a different story, for a couple of reasons.
First, we’ve seen their playbook, and now we can respond a little more effectively in our own messaging. If I were managing a Texas campaign where my opponent was going to be benefitting from an infusion of Bloomberg bucks and campaign ads, here’s how I’d respond.
First, I’d target not only my base, including strong Second Amendment supporters, but I’d take my message to those same suburban moms in the Dallas and Houston suburbs.
The message to gun owners is simple: Don’t let Bloomberg buy your rights away. In fact, an ad featuring Virginia gun owners to Texans about what to expect if Bloomberg’s candidates win would be pretty compelling. They’re promising protection, but if they get power they’re demanding disarmament. Get involved, get active, get registered to vote, and make sure every gun owner you know is heading to the polls on Election Day.
The message for non-gun owners, and maybe even soft supporters of gun control isn’t quite as simple, but I think it could still be effectively conveyed in a 30-second ad. For this ad, I’d also consider using a Virginian, but one that doesn’t think she got what she voted for, or maybe one of Virginia’s sheriffs.
“They promised common sense gun safety laws,” they’d explain, “but then they started pushing bills that would have turned me into a criminal just for keeping the guns that I already own. They tried to shut down my range, which would have made it harder for me to train. And they actually made it easier for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun by refusing to get tough on dangerous criminals or provide help for those in crisis. There’s a better way. Reject the Bloomberg agenda.”
I’d also tie every one of these “gunsense” candidates back to Big Daddy Bloomberg as much as possible. He famously said that Jack Wilson, who stopped the church shooting in White Settlement, Texas, shouldn’t have have had a gun to protect worshipers, and that the “average American” shouldn’t carry a firearm in a public place. Do these candidates agree that concealed carry licensees should be prevented from carrying a firearm? Do they agree with Bloomberg that if you have a gun in your home, “you’re pretty stupid”?
Engage the base and disrupt Everytown’s narrative would be my basic strategy for the pro-Second Amendment Texas legislators soon to face the Bloomberg campaign machine. There’s plenty to build on from there, but it’s at least a starting point, and if I were one of these lawmakers, I’d get started now. Don’t let them define you. Define yourself before the flood of opposition ads begin airing in your district and popping up on voters’ smartphones. If you wait, it’ll be too late.