Candidates

Liz Miranda Won in Massachusetts By Running Her Own Way

Michael P Norton of Commonwealth writes about newly elected African Americans - including LEAPer Liz Miranda - and how they are taking on a party they see as unhelpful:

Her brother Michael’s murder last year spurred her to run for office. “The number one factor I would say was 14 months ago my youngest brother was murdered and we need to end gun violence,” Miranda said. “And I felt that the best place to start ending it was to look at where the resources and where the laws were being made and I knew that that was the State House and that’s what I was aiming for.”

Miranda said she “challenged the status quo” during her campaign, by turning to people who felt disenfranchised – young men released from prison and others who she said were told they “don’t matter.” As she picked a campaign manager and volunteer coordinator, she began to build her network.

“I didn’t know where to pull these people from,” Miranda said. “And I decided that when I went back home I was going to pull from what I did have – I had young people. I had my family. I had neighborhood homies. And I felt that if I can excite them that they would excite their networks. And what we saw was we won in every precinct, which had never been done before.”

Anna Kaplan Won By Focusing on Incumbent Party's Record

Janelle Clausen, writing in The Island Now, focuses on the reasons for LEAPer Anna Kaplan’s 10,000 vote win over incumbent state Sen. Elaine Phillips: her ground game, and the GOP’s lack of willingness to move gun regulatory legislation:

Kaplan focused on bills like the Reproductive Health Act and Child Victims Act, which have not come to a vote in the state Senate under Republican leadership, as well as gun control legislation and Phillips’ purported support for charter schools.

“You can’t say that this is a balance and that you need one house to be Republican,” Kaplan said in a previous interview when asked about possible concerns over one-party control. “If you can’t get things done, you need to make a change.”

Kaplan, a town councilwoman, ran specifically on moving an Extreme Risk Protection Order law through the state Senate. With the body now under solidly Democratic control, she will get that opportunity. LEAP Foward will continue to update this space with news on her efforts and those of all elected candidates.

Katie Hill on the Borderline Mass Shooting
Let me be clear: you can count on me to advocate for strong, swift and immediate gun violence prevention legislation that will keep people safe, and keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.

Two key laws are already in place right now that could have prevented the tragedy at Borderline last week, specifically California’s ban on high capacity magazines — which I have supported from day one — and the Gun Violence Restraining Order. Currently, our high capacity magazine ban is being held up in court by an NRA lawsuit. This is just another example of how the gun lobby is one of our biggest barriers to keeping our communities safe, and why I have never taken NRA money and never will. Gun Violence Restraining Orders are a tool for temporarily removing firearms and ammunition from individuals in crisis, but the law is massively underused. In situations like Borderline, where families saw the red flags, the GVRO can save lives. This legislation has already been passed, but it needs awareness and advocates in order to be effective.
— Katie Hill

Katie’s entire piece can be read on her Medium page.

How Two LEAPers Turned GOP "High Ground" Soggy in Arkansas

I wrote last week that Arkansas is Republican high ground. The "blue wave" would have to be a Noah's flood to put this state underwater. This week, let me point out that Northwest Arkansas is the peak of that high ground (with Fayetteville being a kind of spring-fed pond near the top.) Well, it turns out that even high ground can get a little soggy if some rain falls in just the right spot.

Certainly, Denise Garner of Fayetteville's win over incumbent Republican Rep. Charlie Collins was the race Democrats had to win to be taken seriously any more. Collins was the major target. But Collins was the major target because he had baggage. His guns-on-campus bill made him potent enemies. Williams had none. [Megan] Godfrey's win does not include any of Fayetteville either. Her district is pure Springdale.

Garner's win encourages Democrats to challenge vulnerable Republican incumbents. Godfrey's win, however, encourages Democrats to challenge them all.

Garner, a retired nurse practitioner, and Godfrey, an ESL teacher, were both first-time candidates for legislative office, and both ran on strong gun safety platforms, including keeping guns out of the hands of unsafe individuals and out of schools.

One Final Thought About the Midterms

One final thought on last Tuesday before I move on to the legislative and issue-based phase of the project:

A lot was made about how this year was a victory for candidates who supported gun regulation, and that is undeniably true. Gun safety was cited as the most important issue facing the country by more than one in ten Americans, and that group voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

But to me, one of the most striking thing about gun safety voters is how clearly they want one thing - authenticity. Not only did they reject "A" rated NRA candidates in favor of those with "F"s, but they also easily navigated the grey area in between.

Specifically, they rejected the two Trojan Horses of the cycle - Leonard Lance and Carlos Curbelo. These were two politicians with histories of being on the same side as the gun lobby. Both had received A ratings in the past (Lance an A+) and money from the National Rifle Association. Both made promises to national gun safety organizations that led to highly questionable endorsements and an uncomfortable situation where a group dedicated to improving gun laws was funding a Republican incumbent against the daughter of a victim of gun violence.

But voters saw through it. They showed that they would rather have the real deal than a cheap knockoff. That an organization's desire to reach out and grab for bipartisan cred is less important than to them than the ISSUE itself. In the long term, when it comes to gun violence and efforts to do something about it, that may be the longest-lasting win of 2018, and the clearest message to future candidates.

If you are running for legislative office - especially as a Democrat - gun violence is a front-burner issue. The days where you can hope not to be asked about it, or avoid it, or keep it off your website in the hopes that your opponent doesn't use it against you... those days are over. The future belongs to smart, savvy, brave candidates who put their flag in the ground and say what they believe - not what they think we want to hear.

I'm incredibly proud to have profiled hundreds of those candidates this year, and happy to report that - with votes still being counted - more than 70 of these men and women will take their seats in state legislative bodies across the country. They are the model for how we win, not only at the ballot box, but where it counts the most.

Charles YeganianComment
Campus Carry Support Making Life Difficult for Georgia Senator

Dan Jackson of Flagpole has a profile on the Georgia state Senate race in District 46, featuring Sen. Bill Cowsert and LEAPer Marisue Hilliard. Once again, an incumbent Republican trying to have it both ways on guns has led to a contentious race, and an opening for Democrats.

Hilliard, a former employee of the US Forest Service, is the first Democrat to run against Cowsert since 2008 and was spurred to action by the school massacre in Newtown, CT. She formed her local chapter of Moms Demand Action.

The group lobbied hard against the so-called “Campus Carry” act allowing guns on parts of college campuses. Hilliard said in a phone interview that “there was a lot of anger in Athens, particularly among faculty and staff,” when Gov. Nathan Deal reversed his 2016 veto and signed the bill in 2017.  

“At the state level, we have prevented laws from going forward, for example keeping a K-12 law to arm teachers” from coming up for a vote, Hilliard continued.

Cowsert initially voted for the Campus Carry bill, but voted against the final version that Deal signed. He has said he reversed his position after being flooded with opposition from constituents—including his wife and daughter.

Gun Legislation on the Ballot in New York SD-7

Control of the New York state Senate will be determined on November 6, and with it, the fate of legislation stymied by the GOP’s one-vote majority in the body. (Democrats technically have more seats, but due to a number of Democrats caucusing and/or voting with the GOP, important gun regulations have been defeated. It’s a long story that hopefully I’ll be able to stop telling in a few weeks.

One of the most competitive races is in the North Hempstead area, where incumbent Republican Elaine Phillips held her seat by just 2 points in 2016, and faces Councilwoman Anna Kaplan. As The Island Now points out, a lot hinges on the race, especially when it comes to firearms, where Phillips’ vote helped kill some important stuff:

Phillips’ position on guns has been inconsistent. Phillips initially voted against four amendments that would have banned bump stocks, provided more thorough background checks, authorized judges to remove guns from those found to be danger to themselves or others, and created a state Firearm Violence Research Institute.

After a backlash, Phillips reversed her opposition and stated she now supports the measures.

Kaplan is unequivocal about strengthening New York’s gun control laws. She supports the aforementioned gun control legislation and has spoken out against the NRA event.

Once again, a Republican in a tough re-election race is paying lip service to improving regulations while their actions tell a different story. It’s time to start electing Democrats who actually want to do something rather than keeping incumbents who’ve done nothing.

Boling: Guns "A Real Threat to Our Children"
There is a real threat to our children, our public safety personnel and the safety of all citizens caused by the ready accessibility of lethal weapons. We need to require the very type of background investigations used in New Jersey for decades, end access to high capacity magazines and the weapons that use them, among other things. Our Legislature, under the NRA’s thumb, wouldn’t even pass a “red flag” law.
— Daryl Boling
Gershon Asked About Gun Safety at NY-01 Debate

The subject of responsibility for gun violence came up again with a question from the audience asking what type of gun control legislation each candidate would support.

Gershon said he supports the Second Amendment. “I don’t want to take guns away from honest, hardworking citizens,” he said. But he advocates “universal background checks without loopholes,” he said, including sales at gun shows, and “penalizing people who sell to people that don’t pass background checks.” Congress should renew the assault weapon ban that expired more than a decade ago, Gershon said.

“We should not have concealed-carry reciprocity,” Gershon said, referring to a law that Zeldin cosponsored and voted to pass, which would allow anyone able to carry a concealed weapon in their home state to carry a concealed weapon in any other state. It easily passed the House along party lines in December but has not progressed in the Senate.

“That law makes no sense,” Gershon said. “It will make us all less safe.”

St. Louis American Endorses Cort VanOstran in MO-02
Something is happening in Missouri’s Second Congressional District. When we endorsed Cort VanOstran in the Democratic primary, we did so in part because he had demonstrated an unprecedented ability to challenge U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri), a three-term incumbent and Trump acolyte. He has outraised her in multiple quarters and helped to garner national attention for their race. Now, it looks like we were right. The most recent polling shows that VanOstran in a statistical dead heat with the incumbent Republican, an impressive feat considering that the GOP intentionally redrew the Second Congressional District years ago to try to make it a safe Republican district.

VanOstran’s message has resonated because he believes in the same things that the voters of the Second District believe in: affordable health care, strong public education, common-sense gun reform, getting money out of politics.
Democrats Like Mucarsel-Powell Embrace Gun Safety as a Winning Issue

Gun control is no longer the losing message for swing district Democrats that it used to be. Gun control groups like Giffords PAC are playing in are suburban battlegrounds, and Democrats in swing districts now pledge to stand up to the NRA.

This is a change of tune from past elections, where the battlegrounds were often focused in places where Democrats did not want to talk about, or side with, gun control. This year, a number of suburban Democrats are picking up this messaging in their ads. “I’ll stand up to the NRA to protect our community,” Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is running in FL-26, says in an emotional ad detailing her father’s death.

Barzee-Flores Making FL-25 a Race to Watch

Mary Barzee Flores is “quietly building momentum” in her race in FL-25 against incumbent Mario Diaz Balert, according to Peter Scorch in Florida Politics:

…MDB has been taking it on the chin repeatedly over the last few weeks.

Then came a one-two punch of brutal stories from CBSMiami’s Jim Defede. One a broad piece about the intersection of guns and politics in 2018, that showcased the CD 25 race, along with Diaz-Balart’s post-Parkland NRA funding as the centerpiece of the segment. Then an equally devastating piece that basically implied a pay-to-play nexus between Mario’s seat in congress and the foreign lobbying contracts of his brother, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Steve Santarsiero: "Face the Gun Violence Epidemic Head On"
We also need to face the gun violence epidemic head on. I am proud to have been endorsed by Cease Fire PA, a statewide leader on the issue. In the House I was the author of the background check and no-fly-no-buy bills. No more excuses. We need to enact sensible legislation like universal background checks and a ban on military-style assault weapons. We also need more mental health services and better security at our schools. But I do not support arming teachers.
— Steve Santarsiero (PA SD-10)
Harper Peterson on School Safety

From Benjamin Schachtman, Port City Daily:

[Q:] Is school safety a state issue? If so, what state-level measures would help address the risk of school shootings?

[Harper Peterson] Yes. Great attention has been given to security and safety inside our schools, as should be. But we cannot begin to address this issue unless we undertake comprehensive gun reform and legislation to address this problem outside our school walls. Common sense gun control is supported by nearly 90% of Americans. There are things that we can do to protect our children, while still respecting the rights of gun owners. Big lobbyists need to step aside and let the voice of a majority of North Carolinians be heard. In the General Assembly, I will not be beholden to gun lobbyists and will be able to work on comprehensive legislation to keep our kids safe.

Lee Mangold: Repeal "Guardian Program"
This year, in the wake of the Parkland shooting, our legislators passed a large public safety bill. While there was a lot of good that came out of that bill, it’s also authorized the creation of the “Guardian Program.” This program allows school staff members to take a short training and carry guns in schools. As of now, the county Sherriff must approve of the Guardian Program for the county and this excludes teachers. At a time when our teachers can’t afford to live on their salary, the legislature spent $67 million dollars to put guns in schools. The other concern is that legislators will start filing bills to include all teachers in the program and potentially remove the requirement of Sheriff’s approval.

There is a lot of things we can do to improve safety in our schools that do not include arming teachers. I know this because I’ve done this professionally; the sheriff also knows this. We need to get our hands around this situation NOW and repeal the guardian program.
— Lee Mangold
Another Gun Safety Endorsement for Anna Eskamani

A week after receiving the endorsement of the Brady Campaign, Florida House District 47 candidate Anna Eskamani has also been endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety:

“As a longtime gun safety advocate, I am honored to receive the endorsement of Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund. House District 47 is home to Pulse nightclub, and every day we lose 96 people to gun violence. This includes deaths by suicide and accidental deaths,” Eskamani said.

“For the first time in a long time, Florida has a chance to elect a gun safety majority to the state legislature, and it’s time we elect people who are courageous enough to take on the NRA, push for meaningful mental health funding, and be unapologetic when it comes to passing proactive gun safety legislation,” she concluded.

Statements from LEAP Forward Candidates on the Squirrel Hill Synagogue Shooting

It's a somber morning for our region. The news of losing members of our community in their sacred, safe space of worship has felt physically painful.

This campaign has allowed me to see the strength our region can have when we unite and support each other. Please reach out to your neighbors and friends, and check in with them this week.

All of us stand together against these acts of hate. May you find safety and solace in however you choose to worship or reflect today.

Tom Malinowski (NJ-07)

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It is fundamental to our American identity that everyone, no matter their faith, race or place of birth, feel welcome among us and safe in expressing who they are. It is fundamental that when Neo-Nazis and other haters march, that we come together against them, and not treat the patriotic Americans who rise up in protest as their equals. It is fundamental that those who represent us do more than release the occasional statement to combat the tide of bigotry that’s been unleashed in our nation. It is past time to put country over party and oppose leaders who cater to extremism and then absolve themselves of responsibility for what they have done.

Today is also another sad reminder that no one in America should be armed with weapons of war like an AR-15. Police officers are the good guys with guns in our country, and they should never be outgunned by murderers with guns.

The Talmud teaches in Sanhedrin 4:5 that those who destroy one life destroy an entire world. At least eight worlds were destroyed today. Eight worlds too many. We must do better.

Megan Hunt (Nebraska LD-08)

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We are a nation in perpetual grief, and we are a nation that needs to reckon with its future. All Americans can agree: gun violence must stop.

"Many sides" are not responsible for the violence, targeted hate, and tragic deaths on the rise in our country. The worst anti-Semitic massacre in American history took place today. We don’t need “both sides”ism. We need leaders to stand against the gun lobby and not only condemn, but take action against this rise in hateful, targeted violence.

I stand with victims and survivors, and against the gun lobby & NRA determining policy in Nebraska. 

Heather Edelson (Minnesota HD-49A):

My thoughts and prayers are with the families from Tree of Life Synagogue and the Pittsburgh community. I empathize so deeply with those directly impacted and feel sick, as a mom and a person of Jewish faith, because I know we can do more to prevent tragedies like this. Today's violent act brings forth so many issues. First, we need to ensure our political leaders are not eliciting hate. Second, this tragedy is further evidence we need to not only pass sensible gun legislation, but we need to improve mental health access. We need leaders who will not back down until we address these issues. It is up to each of us to speak up, speak out and vote.

Annie Hornish (Connecticut HD-07):

Once again, horrifying news of another gun massacre, seemingly a hate crime. And once again, by an angry white male.

We are long overdue for ACTION to address this public health crisis.

I am a gun owner whose father was an Enfield cop, and I will fight for common sense gun laws. My opponent, 25-yr career politician John Kissel works to protect the current NRA's reckless agenda, regardless of how nonsensical: he voted against banning bump stocks (HB 5542, 2018) and ghost guns (HB 5540, 2018), and even voted against the temporary confiscation of guns from those with restraining orders against them for domestic violence (HB 5054, 2016), putting women at great risk.

We need to fight the dystopic vision of Trump and his new brand of Republicans, who pander to the leadership at the NRA. The respectable GOP of old has proven itself impotent to slow the hate-filled, white-nationalist trajectory of their party. I will be a firewall to protect our Connecticut values

Giffords, Kelly Stump for Dean Phillips in Minnesota
 Anthony Souffle - Star Tribune

Anthony Souffle - Star Tribune

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived a Tuscon shooting in 2011, was joined by her husband Mark Kelly, an astronaut and naval aviator, at an event near the University of Minnesota. They led a roundtable discussion with gun control activists and candidates U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, Dean Phillips and state Rep. Ilhan Omar. Walz is the Democratic nominee for governor, and Phillips and Omar are running for Congress.

Gun control advocates believe they have found a new voting bloc in suburban voters who fear school shootings. Phillips, who is running in the Third Congressional District in the west metro suburbs, has highlighted his gun position in his race against his opponent U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, who has won the support of the NRA.

“Nothing I am proposing is anything but common-sense solutions that an overwhelming majority of Americans support, including universal background checks,” Phillips said.

Gun safety advocates have zeroed in on the Minneapolis suburbs as the key part of the state not only for national races, but for the state legislature as well. Polls have shown Phillips ahead of Paulsen, who has won his four most recent races by double digits.

Colorado Police Union Backs Tom Sullivan in HD-37
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The Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, the state’s largest police union, Wednesday announced it has endorsed Democrat Tom Sullivan for the House District 37 seat in Centennial over the Republican incumbent, Cole Wist.

Sullivan was the father of Alex Sullivan, one of the victims in the Aurora theater shooting, in which James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 others.

“When my family and I needed law enforcement officers most on that terrible night in 2012, they were there for us,” Sullivan said in a statement. “While my opponent claims to support our community’s law enforcement officers, his record speaks otherwise.


From the day he announced his first campaign for state Senate in 2016, Sullivan has made gun control a key part of his message. While Wist enjoyed a double digit victory in winning his seat in the House two years ago, Sullivan outpaced him in June’s primary voting.

Tram Nguyen (MA 18th Essex) Endorsed by Attorney General

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy has endorsed Tram T. Nguyen, Democratic candidate for State Representative for the 18th Essex District, saying she will be a great partner in government for the Attorney General’s ongoing work on opioids, gun violence prevention and more.

“Tram Nguyen is dedicated to fighting the opioid epidemic, advancing common-sense gun laws, and promoting the future of the state through education and environmental reform,” said Healey. “I know that she will continue to fight for these causes if elected as State Representative, and I would be proud to work alongside her everyday fighting for the people of Massachusetts.”

Nguyen is running against seven-year Republican incumbent James Lyons, Jr.