The gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety plans to spend $3 million to recruit and train its volunteers to run for office, with a goal of having 200 enter races in the next election cycle.
The program is the latest step in a yearslong effort by groups that support stricter gun laws to become politically competitive with the National Rifle Association, which has kept a powerful hold on American politics as mass shootings have multiplied.
That dynamic has begun to shift, with the N.R.A. losing influence among moderate Democrats and more gun restrictions being passed by state legislatures. But even proposals with broad bipartisan support among voters, like universal background checks and red-flag laws, have languished in Congress.
Everytown’s new program, called Demand a Seat, will begin this fall and will involve training in the nuts and bolts of running a campaign, as well as instruction from advocates-turned-legislators such as Representative Lucy McBath, Democrat of Georgia. It is aimed at members of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, two arms of Everytown, which is backed by Michael R. Bloomberg.
“Our volunteers have fought for those people sitting at the table to listen to them, and some wouldn’t, so now our volunteers and gun violence survivors will fight to fill those seats,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action.
According to Everytown, more than 100 of its volunteers ran for office last year and 43 won.
The group said that more than 50 former volunteers have been elected to state legislatures, 18 to city or county councils, eight to school boards and two to Congress: Ms. McBath and Marie Newman, Democrat of Illinois.
Ms. McBath, who was first elected in 2018, said in an interview on Monday that as an advocate with Moms Demand Action she had learned about organizing people, giving speeches and talking about policy with different audiences. But, she said, “I had no idea how to run a campaign.”
“I’d never run for office before,” said Ms. McBath, who got involved with Moms Demand Action after her son, Jordan Davis, was fatally shot. “I got a little bit of help from people around me and went to a boot-camp training over a weekend, but I wish I had this kind of structure in place, an ongoing structure I could tie into the entire time.”
State Representative Jo Ella Hoye, a Democrat, was elected to the Kansas Legislature in November after leading Moms Demand Action’s Kansas chapter for about three years. She said she had staffed her campaign mostly with fellow volunteers, who made more than 10,000 phone calls for her.
“You have this light bulb moment: I used this database for our organizing, and that’s what I’m going to use for our campaign. We take training on messaging and social media,” Ms. Hoye said. “Formalizing it is just going to make that light bulb click a little sooner.”
She and Ms. McBath will advise the program’s participants, as will, among others, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, a Democrat; former Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, a Democrat; and former Representative David Jolly of Florida, who was a Republican while in office but has since left the party.
Source: NYT > U.S. > Politics