As Part of the #VoteCourage Campaign, the 20 Challengers Endorsed Today are Running to Bring Gun Safety to Congress
Giffords #VoteCourage Campaign Now Includes Endorsements of 90 Women, 22 Veterans, and 63 Minority Candidates
Washington, DC — Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, announced its next endorsement slate of 20 gun safety champions for Congress. These candidates are part of a new generation of leaders that are challenging gun lobby-backed politicians as part of Giffords’ #VoteCourage campaign to elect gun reform candidates nationwide.
Statement from former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords:
“This year, voters are demanding leaders who offer more than thoughts and prayers when it comes to gun violence. They’re no longer willing to accept politicians who can’t imagine a world where schools, workplaces, churches, and communities are safe places, where our children don’t have to live in fear. The level of gun violence we experience in our country is not normal and thankfully, we finally have leaders running for office who have the courage to fight to finally address it. Voters are ready to elect leaders that will choose protecting their communities over helping the gun lobby make a profit. Giffords is proud to endorse these gun safety champions for Congress because they will never stop fighting for what’s right.”
With today’s announcement, Giffords is continuing its effort to make sure that when a new Congress is seated next year a majority is ready to address the issue of gun violence by supporting laws that are proven to save lives. At all levels of government, Giffords backs candidates with the courage to reject the gun lobby, who are passionate about reducing gun violence, and who commit to taking action once elected. Giffords campaigns in key elections to elevate the issue of gun safety and builds gun violence prevention majorities from state houses all the way up to the United States Senate.
Candidates from all different backgrounds and walks of life running this year understand every community faces threats from our gun violence crisis. Giffords-endorsed candidates running for open seats or against incumbents in Federal and Statewide races include 50 women, 28 minority candidates, and 12 veterans. Short biographies and other information about Giffords endorsed candidates are available on the website.
Today’s Giffords Endorsements include:
- Anita Malik is a leader with the courage to take on the gun lobby. With a background in technology and journalism, Anita has the ability to bring together Americans from different backgrounds in order to solve our country’s gun violence crisis. In Congress, she will support background checks for all firearm sales and keeping guns out of dangerous hands.
- Diane Mitsch Bush is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives with a proven record of standing up to the gun lobby. In the state legislature, Diane voted to expand background checks and limit access to high capacity magazines. In Congress, she will fight to ban bump stocks and reinstate federal funding for research on gun violence.
- Jahana Hayes has been taking on tough challenges for her entire life. Growing up in a housing project in Waterbury, Connecticut, Jahana was confronted by poverty and gun violence at a young age. After becoming pregnant at 17, she went on to earn two advanced degrees and become an educator. In 2016, Jahana was awarded the National Teacher of the Year award by President Obama. Now, Jahana is running for Congress so that the children in her district – which includes Newtown – can have a better, safer future. That’s why she supports expanding background checks to cover all firearm sales and restarting federal research into the causes of gun violence.
- Chris Hunter has served our country as an FBI agent and federal prosecutor. Through investigating and prosecuting criminals who used firearms to further their crime schemes, he has seen how gun violence impacts communities, families, and the law enforcement agents and officers who protect us all. As a gun owner, Chris knows that we can respect the Second Amendment while also fighting for lifesaving gun safety measures like requiring background checks on all gun sales and preventing individuals listed on the terrorist watch list from getting their hands on firearms.
- Donna Shalala previously served as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the president of the University of Miami. A fierce advocate for the well-being of others her entire career, Donna played a role in the 1994 passage of the federal assault weapon ban. In Congress, Donna will be a strong supporter of expanding background checks, restarting federal funding for gun violence research, and cracking down on gun trafficking.
- Nancy Soderberg is a proven leader with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby. As a former member of the National Security Council, she understands what it takes to keep our communities safe. Nancy is running for Congress on a platform that includes requiring a background check for all gun sales and closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers and stalkers to get their hands on firearms.
- Jesús “Chuy” Garcia is a former Illinois state senator and current Cook County commissioner. He has a long history of working to improve the lives of those he represents. Jesús knows that weak federal gun laws are a danger to Illinois communities and will fight in Congress to improve them by expanding background checks and enacting strong anti-trafficking laws.
- Betsy Dirksen Londrigan knows that we can respect the Second Amendment while enacting commonsense gun safety measures to save lives. A native of Springfield, Illinois, and former Teach for America corps member, Betsy has spent the last 20 years working for Senator Dick Durbin and other Democratic candidates for public office. In Congress, she will place the needs of her constituents before the gun lobby by voting to reinstate federal funding for research on gun violence and expand background checks to cover all firearm sales.
- Raised by a single mother Army veteran, Sharice Davids graduated from community college in Kansas before attending law school and then going on to serve as a White House fellow. An expert in Native American issues, Sharice understands the importance of fighting on behalf of the underserved. Sharice has the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and will work in Congress to reinstate federal funding on gun violence and expand background checks to cover all firearm sales.
- As a doctor and former National Health Officer for the YMCA, Matt Longjohn brings a unique voice to the fight against gun violence. He has authored peer-reviewed articles on gun violence prevention and has long advocated for the gun violence crisis to be treated as a public health issue. Matt is a firearm owner and comes from a military family. He knows that Congress can respect the Second Amendment while also taking action to expand background checks and restart federal research into gun violence.
- Haley Stevens has a proven track record of getting results for Michigan families. As chief of staff to the US Auto Rescue during the Great Recession, Haley played a critical role in saving over 200,000 Michigan jobs. Now she’s running for Congress to help build a future free from gun violence for Michigan communities. Haley supports federal funding for community-based intervention programs to prevent gun violence, as well as closing loopholes that allow convicted domestic abusers and stalkers to obtain firearms.
- The first Muslim woman to ever serve in the Michigan legislature, Rashida Tlaib is no stranger to breaking down seemingly insurmountable barriers. Rashida developed a reputation in the legislature for always putting the needs of her constituents first, and Michigan families can count on her to do the same in Congress. Rashida will fight for commonsense gun safety measures like expanded background checks and closing loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to get their hands on guns.
- Cort VanOstran is a lawyer and educator. A native of rural Missouri, Cort understands that it is possible to respect the rights of responsible gun owners while also taking steps to keep our communities and families safe from gun violence. Cort will not be afraid to stand up to the corporate gun lobby by fighting to expand background checks and keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
- Dana Balter is running a campaign for Congress based on putting the needs of the people of New York before special interests. She knows that the gun lobby has used its influence to block our leaders from taking action on America’s gun violence crisis for far too long and will fight in Congress for commonsense solutions to keep New York families safe. Dana’s opponent is a co-sponsor of the gun lobby’s top priority in Congress, a concealed carry reciprocity measure that would endanger New York law enforcement by making it legal for dangerous out-of-staters to carry hidden firearms in public.
- Perry Gershon, a successful businessman, understands how to bring people together in order to solve challenging problems. He won’t be afraid to stand up to the gun lobby in Congress in order to pass lifesaving gun safety measures. Perry supports expanding background checks to cover all firearm sales and regulating semi-automatic weapons. He will also oppose the NRA’s concealed carry reciprocity measure, which would endanger New York law enforcement by making it legal for dangerous out-of-staters to carry hidden firearms in public.
- Linda Coleman is a former teacher and member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. A native of eastern North Carolina, Linda understands that we can respect the Second Amendment while also passing commonsense gun safety measures to keep our communities safe. Linda has heard the voices of young people across our country calling for action on the gun violence crisis, and she will fight in Congress to expand background checks and limit access to high capacity magazines.
- A fourth generation Daytonian and a successful small business owner, Theresa Gasper has spent her entire life working to make her community a better place. In the wake of the Great Recession, Theresa started a company to renovate Dayton-area homes that fell into disrepair. Now, she is running for Congress in order to provide the hardworking people of her district the type of representation they deserve. Theresa knows the toll that gun violence takes on our communities and will be a strong advocate for expanding background checks to cover all gun sales and closing loopholes that allow convicted domestic abusers and stalkers to get their hands on firearms.
- George Scott has dedicated his life to service of his community and our country. A native of southern Pennsylvania, he served for 20 years in the US Army as an intelligence officer. Upon retirement, George entered theology school and became pastor of a Lutheran church in his district. As a battalion commander, George learned that weapons require respect and must be handled with discipline. He knows that Congress needs to take action to keep our communities safe and will fight to reinstate federal funding for research on gun violence and expand background checks to cover all firearm sales.
- Todd Litton is a unique leader with a background in business and law that allows him to bring opposing sides together to find common ground. Having worked in education and nonprofits in Houston for the last 15 years, he understands what it takes to build strong and safe communities. Todd will work in Congress to prevent those listed on the terrorist watch list from buying firearms and reinstate federal funding for research on gun violence.
- Dr. Kim Schrier is a pediatrician who has spent her career serving Washington children and families. She has made enacting commonsense gun safety laws a central part of her campaign, using one of her first ads to highlight the danger that unsecured firearms pose in homes where adolescents are struggling with mental illness. In Congress, Kim will have the courage to stand up to the gun lobby in order to expand background checks for all firearm sales and reinstate federal funding for research on gun violence.
Background of Giffords’ 2018 Political Program
The initial step to the political program this year began in the hours after the Parkland shooting, when Giffords used #VoteCourage to get people to pledge to support candidates in November who will stand up to the gun lobby and fight for safer communities. In less than a week more than 450,000 Americans took the pledge.
Following the #VoteCourage pledge, Giffords began this ongoing, robust political program to shine a light on incumbents’ record of prioritizing the interests of the gun industry over public safety. It is encouraging voters to support candidates with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby. Along with the digital advertisements going out today and the website database, the program will include TV advertising, on-the-ground organizing and events, and a voter registration push.
Giffords launched a partnership with NextGen America and Everytown for Gun safety on a voter registration effort that is committing an initial $1.5 million to seek to get up to 50,000 Americans aged 18-19 registered for the midterm elections. In 2017, Giffords launched its candidate training program to help educate candidates who want to run on a gun safety platform and plans to expand the program in 2018.
The mass shooting at Parkland, in Florida, crystallized the country’s frustration with the lack of any action to pass gun safety laws. Gun death rates have climbed to levels not seen in decades. Currently, the country is averaging nearly 34,000 deaths from guns every year, and recent pollingshows that support for stronger gun laws is at an all-time high.
Last November saw gun safety champions win commandingly across the country – from statewide races in Virginia and New Jersey to a key state senate seat in Washington state. The elections sparked what has become known as the suburban rebellion in the districts that will matter to who will have control of Congress next year.
A recent public opinion survey released by Giffords also shows that gun safety is a winning issue in districts key to determining control of the House of Representatives. The poll looked into 38 battleground districts that are largely Republican-held. The results proved that embracing gun safety could be the difference-maker for Democrats in key swing districts, particularly because support for stronger gun laws remains high and the National Rifle Association’s favorability is on a downward trend.