Everytown For Gun Safety In America spends a lot of money on ad buys in various races. They’ve backed candidates for state and federal office, everything from state representatives all the way up to presidential candidates. We’re kind of used to that from them.
Yet now it seems they’re aiming a little smaller with how they spend their money.
When you think about high-stakes political campaigns in Pennsylvania politics, your thoughts usually don’t turn to county sheriff’s contests.
Sure, there are exceptions, and some offices get overtaken by scandal (Yes, that’s you Philadelphia).
In general, however, most voters would be hard-pressed to name their county sheriff, let alone explain the role they occupy in Pennsylvania’s crowded law enforcement cosmos (The answer to the latter, by the way, is mostly to serve warrants, and to provide security in county courtrooms. They’re not front-line police officers — as is the case in many other jurisdictions.).
That seeming obscurity has proven to not be a deterrent for Everytown for Gun Safety, the anti-gun violence group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
This week, the group is launching a $200,000 campaign for the open seat in Erie County’s sheriff race. It’s part of a broader effort targeting sheriff’s contests nationwide, and yet another reminder that local races are increasingly being seen through a nationwide lens.
The Erie race pits Democrat Chris Campanelli, a 25-year veteran deputy sheriff, whose views on gun-related issues match with Everytown’s, the organization said — though there appears to be scant documentary evidence to buttress that claim.
He faces Republican Brian Shank, a former prison guard and current member of Erie County Council.
The winner replaces current Sheriff John Loomis, a Democrat, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek a third term, GoErie reported. Which seems to indicate the spend here is less about Campanelli, more about Shank, and all about holding the seat.
Now, this is rather interesting.
I’ve no doubt that Everytown focusing on sheriffs’ races stems from the many county sheriffs who explicitly said they wouldn’t enforce unconstitutional gun control laws. Yet they’re starting in Erie County, where a Democrat has held the seat for a number of years.
Part of that is because Shank was cited for carrying a firearm during a pro-Second Amendment rally. In other words, he’s very much a pro-gun kind of guy, which is precisely the kind of person Everytown would oppose taking office.
Again, though, this seems more than a little bizarre.
It’s possible this is just a test run for Everytown. After all, they spent a fortune trying to turn Texas blue and, instead, it looks like it just became redder. While they had success in Virginia doing that, they may be starting to think that Virginia’s flip had less to do with them and more to do with the bluest of the blue districts in the northern part of the state seeing an increase in population.
If so, they’re bound to look elsewhere for places to make a difference.
With county sheriffs, they can actually create a significant issue for gun rights, especially in states where sheriffs have discretion as to who can receive a gun permit. Granted, that might be rendered moot with the upcoming Supreme Court case, but it’s still a thing in the here and now.
Regardless, this is something we should be keeping a close eye on.