Virginia for the Win is a series examining Virginia’s crucial role in the 2016 presidential race.
Update: This post was updated to accurately reflect a 2006 statement from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said Virginia gun dealers, not Virginians, have blood on their hands.
New Yorker mega-billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s attacks on Virginia were once considered unfair and intrusive. But really big money talks in the new Virginia. The former New York city mayor is now being recruited to kick us around.
Newspaper stories across the commonwealth carried headlines Thursday morning on the $700,000 a group affiliated with former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg dumped into the 10th Senate District race. Today, we learned the group will bankroll a $1.5 million advertising campaign in the 29th Senate District in Northern Virginia.
This is an unprecedented sum — dwarfing any similar such out-of-state interference in a state legislative election.
The group is Everytown for Gun Safety, for which Bloomberg is a major contributor. Bloomberg has long been outraged at what he considers Virginia’s archaic gun laws.
The ads are a joint effort between Everytown and Democratic nominee Dan Gecker, a real estate developer and member of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors. Analysts say a Democratic win in the 10th is essential for the party to win back control of the state Senate. Everytown’s money is gunning for Republican candidate Glenn Sturtevant, a lawyer and Richmond School Board member.
Why the unprecedented targeting of Sturtevant two weeks before the election? A local TV analyst suggested Gecker was headed for a loss without Everytown’s intervention, redefining the contest as about guns.
Bloomberg has said Virginia gun dealers have blood on their hands because firearms bought and sold here wound up killing people in New York City. The gun issue had not been a marquee matter in the 10th, which represents a good chunk of voters in Richmond and adjacent Chesterfield County, along with all of nearby Powhatan County.
The TV ad, which begins airing today, features Andy Parker, father of Alison Parker, a Roanoke television news reporter who was tragically shot and killed — on air — this summer.
Mr. Parker has helped Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) political PAC, which supported Gecker. The disclaimer on the TV ad says, “Paid for by Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund. Authorized by Dan Gecker, candidate for State Senate.” The governor didn’t deny recruiting Bloomberg’s money.
This $700,000 in the 10th roughly equals all the campaign funds Sturtevant has raised this year.
We get it: Everytown is using Gecker to make a larger point. Virginia is a Southern state. Southern lawmakers have resisted the Bloomberg gun agenda. A high-profile win attributed to this record campaign contribution would give Bloomberg new national swagger, a big thing with billionaires, as Donald Trump has taught us.
There is no reason to hide it. But a Virginia voter backlash to out-of-state groups attacking our laws has happened before. This potential supports the view that Gecker’s camp believed it had to change the campaign narrative or face defeat.
Everytown’s spokeswoman told The Post’s Laura Vozzella it “has already put down $370,000 for network TV, and more network ad time is in the process of being purchased. The rest will be spent on cable, radio and digital.”
If Everytown can buy all that airtime, it will turn the Richmond media market into gun central. But spending it all on political ads and none on get-out-the-vote efforts defies common sense. The 10th District race is an off-year election, with voter turnout less than half of a presidential election.
Those already expected to vote regularly support either Democrats or Republicans. Everytown’s advisers are professionals. They know $100,000 spent on get-out-the-vote efforts is likely to be far more effective than a similar amount of ads.
State law allows get-out-the-vote efforts to be buried in campaign reporting — hiding it from the press and the other party. Could this be the bigger story eventually?
Bloomberg has attacked Virginia’s gun laws for roughly 10 years. He has the right to do it. But is it the right thing to do?
We have written for several years about the need to clean up Virginia’s campaign laws favoring billionaires over middle-class candidates.
Money makes Gecker the favorite now. If Sturtevant wins, the 32-year-old small-firm lawyer will instantly become the Republicans’ biggest new star.