A leading national gun safety advocacy group is spending big in Colorado to oppose statewide Republican nominees and support a Democratic state lawmaker in a TV ad campaign set to launch as voters begin to cast ballots.
Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund, a group funded largely by former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, along with a related state-level independent expenditure committee, is spending $2.7 million on TV and digital ads in the Denver market in the run-up to the general election, a spokesman for the group told Colorado Politics.
The ad campaign includes $1 million to support state Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat, in Senate District 27, with the remainder split roughly evenly between negative ads aimed at Republican U.S. Senate nominee Joe O’Dea and gubernatorial nominee Heidi Ganahl.
Sullivan, a state representative who entered politics after his son was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, has been a key proponent of state gun control legislation, including the 2019 “red flag” law, which allows a judge to remove guns temporarily from someone who poses a risk to themselves or others. He’s running against Republican businessman Tom Kim for the open seat in central Arapahoe County.
O’Dea, a construction company owner and first-time candidate, is hoping to deny Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet a third term, and Ganahl is challenging Gov. Jared Polis, who is seeking a second term.
“The overwhelming majority of Coloradans are looking for candidates who will stand up to the gun lobby by fighting for common-sense gun safety laws, and our polling confirms it,” said John Feinblatt, Everytown for Gun Safety president, in a statement to Colorado Politics. “Everytown is taking to the airwaves to make sure that Colorado voters know that our historic gun safety victories would be at risk without control of the state Senate or with extremists like Joe O’Dea and Heidi Ganahl in office.”
A poll released by Everytown found that a wide majority of likely Colorado voters say a candidate’s position on guns is important when deciding how to vote, with solid majorities voicing support for various gun control measures, including red flag laws, requiring background checks for all firearms purchasers and restricting gun sales to convicted domestic abusers.
Everytown began airing a 30-second TV ad on Friday linking O’Dea to “MAGA Republicans,” featuring graphics of O’Dea alongside former President Donald Trump — a message that could have lost some of its punch by Monday, when Trump attacked O’Dea for the Coloradan’s remarks over the weekend saying he intends to “actively campaign against” Trump if the former president makes another White House run in 2024.
Like the bulk of negative ads aimed at Republicans in Colorado in recent months, the Everytown ad includes a focus on abortion. The ad alleges that O’Dea could help the GOP pass a national ban on abortion, citing the candidate’s admission that he voted for a 2020 Colorado ballot measure that would have prohibited the procedure in Colorado after 22 weeks of pregnancy.
O’Dea, who signed the petition to put the measure on the ballot, has said he supports banning abortions at 20 weeks, with some exceptions, but insists that he won’t vote for a national ban and says he supports passing a federal law to codify the provisions of the Roe v. Wade decision struck down this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ad also attacks O’Dea’s position on gun control, saying he “sides with the gun lobby.”
In June, O’Dea touted an endorsement from a state group aligned with the National Rifle Association and said he “won’t stand for” attacks on the rights of law-abiding firearms owners. An opponent of the bipartisan gun control law passed this summer by Congress, O’Dea asserted during a primary debate that “We’ve got plenty of laws on the books already,” referring to gun safety measures.
A spokesman for O’Dea’s campaign declined to comment on the ad but noted that it mirrors messaging released this summer by national Democrats, who signaled that abortion and gun control are considered powerful issues to motivate Democratic-leaning voters to the polls.
A spokesman for Everytown said ads opposing Ganahl and supporting Sullivan will begin airing in the coming days.
The ads join airwaves already jam-packed with attack ads as voters are set to start receiving mail ballots this week.