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Politics

Gun Control Group To Spend $2 Million In Texas House Races

Republican State Rep. Angie Chen Button.
Bret Jaspers
/
KERA News
Republican State Rep. Angie Chen Button of Texas House district 112 in Dallas County is one of the incumbents the gun control group Everytown is trying to unseat.

Everytown For Gun Safety joins the high stakes battle over which party controls the Texas House.

The gun control advocacy group Everytown is spending $2.2 million in races for the Texas House this fall, mostly in competitive suburban districts in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Everytown will put out digital ads and direct mail to discourage voters from choosing Republican candidates in 12 seats. Democrats need to win nine state House races in all to take control of the chamber, which would give them influence over future legislation and redistricting.

Everytown’s target races are Texas House districts 26; 64; 66; 67; 92; 94; 96; 108; 112; 121; 134 and 138. You can find your district here.

Charlie Kelly, senior political advisor for Everytown, isn’t worried the effort may help oust some moderate Republicans who might be open to stricter gun laws.

“The Republican-led state Legislature had plenty of opportunities to take action on gun safety,” he said. “Instead, they’ve weakened gun laws across the board, even as Texans have faced four of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings.”

Those shootings include the 2019 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso and a 2017 shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs.

While some prominent Republicans like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have expressed openness to more background checks, recommendations last year from Gov. Greg Abbott did not include them for all private sales.

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll from February, almost 80% of Texans support background checks for all gun purchases, including almost 70% of Republicans. Currently, person-to-person private sales and gun show purchases do not require background checks.

All of the races on Everytown’s list are also being targeted by the progressive group Forward Majority, which said it would spend over $6 million in 18 statehouse races. Kelly said the two groups will coordinate their work in order to diversify the messages people see.

Everytown is also spending heavily to flip control of state legislative chambers in Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina, Arizona, Minnesota, and possibly others. The group is spending money to oppose Republican Tony Gonzales in Texas’ 23rd Congressional district, which spans San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley.

The pro-gun rights National Rifle Association has endorsed all but one of the Republicans in the races Everytown is targeting. The Dallas Morning News reported last year the NRA and the Texas State Rifle Association have given almost $710,000 to Texas politicians and parties since 2000.

While Kelly said Everytown is “running ads on guns in every race,” some ads touch on other issues like immigration and education, which Kelly said motivates and persuades voters.

“You can saturate on one message,” he said. “So we’re talking about the issues that matter to voters in Texas that are top of mind.”

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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