By: Dan Krupnick, Political Director
Candidates used to dodge talking about gun violence prevention at all costs. Those days are over.
This election cycle, there’s a new wave of candidates who are speaking out.
We are proud to endorse more than 100 gun safety candidates so far this year. Some are running in traditionally conservative districts. Some are running against the NRA’s top financial beneficiaries. All of them have pledged to fight for stronger gun laws while in Congress.
With so many candidates — and so much at stake — every race is important. But there are several where gun safety isn’t just a defining issue — it’s a winning issue.
In the following races, voters have a stark choice: an incumbent who has sided with the NRA at every turn; or a leader who will not rest until Congress takes action against gun violence. We’ve laid them all out for you. These are 18 races to watch as we get closer to the midterms (in no particular order).
1) Katie Porter (CA-45)
Opponent: Rep. Mimi Walters // Cook PVI: R+3 // Cook Rating: Toss Up
Katie Porter is a consumer protection attorney who was appointed by the then California attorney general Kamala Harris to monitor Wall Street banks in the wake of the housing crisis.
WHY IT MATTERS: This Orange County district is considered one of the best pickup opportunities for Democrats in California, where Hillary Clinton won by 5 points. In this district, Katie is making gun violence prevention a key part of her campaign to unseat Mimi Walters, who has voted consistently with the gun lobby during her time in Congress.
2) Mike Levin (CA-49)
Opponent: Diane Harkey // Cook PVI: R+1 // Cook Rating: Lean Democrat
Environmental lawyer Mike Levin is a graduate of Stanford University and Duke University School of Law and a former executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County.
WHY IT MATTERS: He represents a great opportunity to replace an ‘A’ rated NRA Congressman—Darrell Issa—with a gun safety champion in this open Southern California district. He has made taking action on gun violence a central part of his message in the race against Harkey.
3) Jason Crow (CO-06)
Opponent: Rep. Mike Coffman // Cook PVI: D+2 // Cook Rating: Toss Up
This suburban Denver district is expected to be among the most competitive in the country.
WHY IT MATTERS: Incumbent Mike Coffman has made efforts to position himself as a moderate on various issues—including gun violence. Coffman consistently receives ‘A’ ratings from the NRA and has benefitted from the organization spending over $100,000 on his behalf. Jason came out early in the race with an ad on gun violence prevention and has continued to make it a central part of his message.
4) David Shapiro (FL-16)
Opponent: Rep. Vern Buchanan // Cook PVI: R+7 // Cook Rating: Lean R
David Shapiro is an attorney, small business owner, and civic leader. He lives in Sarasota with Robin, his wife of nearly 30 years.
WHY IT MATTERS: Gun safety is poised to play a critical role in Florida’s midterm elections in the wake of February’s tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Incumbent Vern Buchanan has consistently received ‘A’ ratings from the NRA and refused to support commonsense gun safety measures. David has a strong gun safety platform and has appeared at a rally with Congresswoman Giffords.
5) Mary Barzee Flores (FL-25)
Opponent: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart // Cook PVI: R+4 // Cook Rating: Likely R
As a public defender and judge, Mary saw countless lives destroyed by gun violence and is making incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart’s ties to the gun lobby a major factor in this district just a short drive from Parkland.
WHY IT MATTERS: Diaz-Balart took $1000 from the NRA less than five months after the Parkland shooting, and Mary has already released a digital ad featuring a powerful testimonial from Fred Guttenberg, the father of a Parkland victim. Giffords has released polling from the district that shows the issue has the potential to be a winning one for her.
6) Lucy McBath (GA-06)
Opponent: Rep. Karen Handel // Cook PVI: R+8 // Cook Rating: Lean R
Lucy McBath is a mother, wife, and 30-year employee of Delta Air Lines. In 2012, Lucy’s son Jordan Davis was shot and killed at a Florida gas station by a man who thought Jordan was playing his music too loudly.
WHY IT MATTERS: Lucy is now running to prevent the tragedy that happened to her family from happening to others. Georgia’s sixth district has traditionally been a conservative stronghold, but Donald Trump won it by only 1.5 points. Lucy’s personal connection to gun violence and her potential to defeat the NRA-endorsed Handel make this a race to watch in 2018.
“After her son’s death, McBath, a longtime Delta flight attendant, quit her job and shifted her focus to advocating for gun control.” – The Washington Post
7) Angie Craig (MN-02)
Opponent: Rep. Jason Lewis // Cook PVI: R+2 // Cook Rating: Toss Up
As a recreational shooter and the mother of four sons, two of whom are avid hunters, Angie Craig understands the need to balance Second Amendment rights with common-sense gun safety laws.
WHY IT MATTERS: This suburban Twin Cities district represents the only rematch in the country from 2016. Angie lost to Lewis by less than two points that year, despite the presence of a liberal third-party candidate on the ballot who drew 8% of the vote. With no third-party candidate on the ballot this November, Angie has a great opportunity to defeat Lewis. Although now attempting to position himself as an independent voice, Lewis has been happy to vote the gun lobby’s line in Congress, supporting last year’s dangerous concealed carry reciprocity legislation and earning high marks from the NRA.
8) Kara Eastman (NE-02)
Opponent: Rep. Don Bacon // Cook PVI: R+4 // Cook Rating: Lean R
Kara Eastman was raised by a single mother in the midwest. She is the founder of Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, a non-profit that has served thousands of Nebraska families over the last decade. Kara lives in Omaha with her husband and their high school daughter.
WHY IT MATTERS: This was one of the most closely contested districts in the country in 2016, with Don Bacon defeating incumbent Democrat Brad Ashford. In 2018, Eastman defeated Ashford in the Democratic primary and now appears well positioned to knock off the first-term incumbent. The contrast in this race on gun violence prevention is stark. Eastman is running on a strong gun safety platform, while Bacon has refused to support common-sense measures to strengthen gun laws in the wake of Parkland.
“‘We need elected officials who don’t cave in the face of something that’s hard,’ she said. She espoused priorities that she said should be ‘simple’: background checks, waiting periods and an assault weapons ban.” – Omaha World-Herald
9) Andy Kim (NJ-03)
Opponent: Rep. Tom MacArthur // Cook PVI: R+2 // Cook Rating: Toss Up
Andy was exposed to gun violence while serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and several African countries, and knows that gun violence has no place in our streets.
WHY IT MATTERS: Incumbent Tom MacArthur has drawn the ire of Democrats for his critical role in Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but he also has an abysmal record on gun violence prevention. In contrast, Andy is running on a strong platform of gun violence prevention. Recent independent polling shows a close race.
“These weapons of war that I saw out in Afghanistan, these are the types of things we don’t need here in our communities. These are the types of things we need to make sure we’re protecting our families from. We had those types of provisions before, and they were taken away and I think there’s a real opportunity for us.” – Andy Kim, Burlington County Times
10) Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11)
Opponent: Jay Webber // Cook PVI: R+3 // Cook Rating: Lean D
Mikie Sherrill is a Naval Academy graduate, helicopter pilot, and former federal prosecutor. As an Assistant US Attorney, Mikie prosecuted federal cases and advised law enforcement on investigations, working directly with the victims of gun violence.
WHY IT MATTERS: This is an open seat that was previously held by Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen. After several strong quarters of fundraising by Sherill, Frelinghuysen announced his retirement, and the district is now considered one of the top pickup opportunities for Democrats in the country. Given her background as a veteran and prosecutor, Mikiel is a powerful messenger on gun violence. Jay Webber, her opponent, has an extreme voting record on gun safety issues in the New Jersey Assembly.
11) Antonio Delgado (NY-19)
Opponent: Rep. John Faso // Cook PVI: R+2 // Cook Rating: Toss Up
Antonio Delgado is the child of General Electric workers in Schenectady, where he grew up in a community that was affected by gun violence. He is an attorney who earned a Rhodes Scholarship, as well as a graduate of Harvard Law School.
WHY IT MATTERS: First-term incumbent John Faso is among the most vulnerable Republicans in the northeast, but he has already racked up an extremely conservative voting record on gun safety that is out of line with this upstate district. Antonio, who has a strong gun violence prevention platform, emerged victorious from a competitive seven-way Democratic primary in which gun safety was a major issue.
“‘The bottom line is that these common sense measures are not radical positions by any stretch,’ Delgado said in a statement. ‘People here hunt, they shoot recreationally and they need to know that they can protect their family in areas where police can’t respond quickly,’ Delgado said. ‘I respect that and understand that those things are important. I’m not out to take guns away from responsible owners.'” – Roll Call
12) Chrissy Holahan (PA-06)
Opponent: Greg McCauley // Cook PVI: D+2 // Cook Rating: Likely D
Chrissy Houlahan is a US Air Force veteran, former Teach for America Corps Member, and former COO of AND1 Basketball. She graduated from Stanford University on a ROTC scholarship and received an MS in Technology and Policy from MIT. As a teacher, Chrissy worked in North Philadelphia where her students were regularly exposed to gun violence.
WHY IT MATTERS: Court-ordered redistricting in 2018 rendered this district outside of Philadelphia far more amenable to Democrats. Chrissy is running on a strong gun violence prevention platform and is favored to defeat Republican tax attorney Greg McCauley in November.
“Chrissy Houlahan nursed a chocolate milkshake at a diner here on her way to a gun-control event and pondered the changing political nature of this Philadelphia suburb, which has been represented in Congress by an uninterrupted chain of Republicans for more than 100 years. ‘If you had told me 10 years ago, here in Chester County, that we were having a conversation about [gun violence], I would not have believed you'” – Wall Street Journal
13) Rep. Conor Lamb (PA-17)
Opponent: Rep. Keith Rothfus // Cook PVI: R+3 // Cook Rating: Lean D
Congressman Conor Lamb is a Marine veteran and former federal prosecutor. He was born and raised in Mt. Lebanon and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. Congressman Lamb served four years of active duty in the Marine Corps, rising to the rank of Captain. During his career in the Justice Department’s Pittsburgh office, he won successful convictions against two Pittsburgh straw buyers who had helped funnel hundreds of illegal firearms into New York.
WHY IT MATTERS: Congressman Lamb drew nationwide attention when he won a March 2018 special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, where Trump defeated Clinton by 20 points. Due to Pennsylvania’s court-ordered redistricting, he is running for reelection in the 17th district, where Trump won by only 2.5 points. Though he has only served in Congress for a short time, Congressman Lamb has already signed on to legislation to expand background checks to all gun sales and close the ‘Boyfriend Gap’. Early polling in this district shows that Lamb is in good position to defeat fellow incumbent Keith Rothfus and earn a full term in Congress. Rothfus has received straight As from the NRA during his time in Congress.
14) Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (TX-07)
Opponent: Rep. John Culberson // Cook PVI: R+7 // Cook Rating: Toss Up
Lizzie Pannill Fletcher is a lawyer who has spent her career standing up for the families of Houston. Lizzie learned how to shoot at summer camp growing up in Texas and is now running for Congress on a strong gun violence prevention platform.
WHY IT MATTERS: After voting for Mitt Romney by 21 points in 2012, Texas’ seventh district went to Hillary Clinton by one point in 2016. The suburban Houston district is now one of the top House battlegrounds in the country, with Lizzie outraising the long-time incumbent and Freedom Caucus member Culberson, who received an ‘A+’ rating from the NRA in 2016. Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly came to Texas in in July to campaign with Lizzie on gun safety.
“In the early spring of last year, Houston attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher attended a town hall hosted by her congressman, Republican John Culberson. As he responded to constituents’ questions about his views on health care, gun regulation, immigration and net neutrality, Fletcher didn’t like what she heard. ‘I shook his hand, and had a pleasant and brief exchange,’ she said. And then she decided to run against him.” – The Texas Tribune
15) Joseph Kopser (TX-21)
Opponent: Chip Roy // Cook PVI: R+10 // Cook Rating: Likely R
Joseph Kopser is an Army veteran and entrepreneur. He is a graduate of West Point who served a full career in the Army, deploying to Iraq for 14 months. After retiring from the military, Joseph helped start and build a business that was eventually acquired by Daimler AG, parent company of Car2Go and Mercedes.
WHY IT MATTERS: This open seat stretches across central Texas from San Antonio to Austin. Retiring Congressman Lamar Smith has been replaced on the Republican ticket by Chip Roy, former chief of staff to Senator Ted Cruz. Joseph is running a strong campaign focused on bringing Americans together to solve problems, a hallmark of his career in the military and private sector. Even in the heart of Texas, Joseph is campaigning on a strong gun safety message, with his status as a veteran giving him undeniable credibility on the issue.
16) Elaine Luria (VA-02)
Opponent: Rep. Scott Taylor // Cook PVI: R+3 // Cook Rating: Toss Up
Elaine Luria served in the Navy for 20 years as a surface warfare officer and nuclear engineer. She was deployed six times and conducted operations in the Middle East and Western Pacific. After leaving the Navy, Elaine started a family business, which continues to manufacture local products while giving back to organizations in the community.
WHY IT MATTERS: President Trump carried Virginia’s second district by only 3 points in 2016, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam won the district by 4 points in November of 2017. Incumbent Scott Taylor is little-known in the district, having first won in 2016 when he had no serious Democratic opponent. Elaine’s record as a veteran and small business owner will make this race one of Virginia’s most competitive. She is running on a strong gun violence prevention platform while Taylor has touted his ‘A’ rating from the NRA in 2016 and done the organization’s bidding while in Congress.
17) Abigail Spanberger (VA-07)
Opponent: Rep. Dave Brat // Cook PVI: R+6 // Cook Rating: Toss Up
Abigail Spanberger started her career in public service as a federal law enforcement officer before joining the CIA as an operations officer. She left government service in 2014 to work in the private sector, where she helped colleges and universities create diverse student bodies. Like many in Virginia, Abigail has a personal connection to the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, where the child of a family friend was shot and survived.
WHY IT MATTERS: Incumbent Dave Brat has not had a serious challenge since his upset win in the 2014 Republican primary. Abigail is a top-tier recruit with a dynamic background and robust fundraising numbers, and her status as a former CIA operative makes her an effective messenger of her strong gun violence prevention platform. Brat has been a consistent recipient of NRA donations and ‘A’ ratings. In return, he has towed the NRA’s line when it comes to gun laws.
“Background checks are the first thing. The [gun] violence restraining orders, which are state laws that allow for people who are in a point of crisis to have their guns temporarily restrained. There’s federal legislation going called the GVRO Act that would incentivize states to put those forms of legislation in place.” – Abigail, Spanberger, RVA Mag
18) Jennifer Wexton (VA-10)
Opponent: Rep. Barbara Comstock // Cook PVI: D+1 // Cook Rating: Lean D
A sitting state senator, Jennifer Wexton has been a gun violence prevention champion from the beginning of her career, voting to establish universal background checks, ban bump stocks, mandate the reporting of lost and stolen firearms, and keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.
WHY IT MATTERS: Barbara Comstock is widely considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents this cycle. This suburban northern Virginia district is home to the NRA, and Comstock’s extreme record on the issue stands in sharp contrast to the wishes of her constituents. Giffords recently ran its first major IE of the cycle here, attacking Comstock on that record. Hillary Clinton won this district in 2016 by double digits.