(WASHINGTON) — Everytown for Gun Safety, the prominent gun violence prevention organization, on Friday announced its first-ever investments in local secretary of state races amid what they described as worries the GOP nominees would not certify presidential election results in 2024 — if elected this year.
The $1 million investment is funding ads and mailers targeting Mark Finchem and Kristina Karamo, the Republican secretary of state nominees in Arizona and Michigan, respectively, and will boost the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, Everytown said.
The media campaign will be featured on digital platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Roku and YouTube, as well as via direct mail, according to the advocacy group.
Both Finchem and Karamo have spread baseless fraud claims about the 2020 presidential election and have declined to firmly commit to certifying the 2024 election results in their states, if they are in office.
“Electing gun sense champions requires fair elections — and that requires electing Secretaries of State who will stand up to armed extremists threatening our democracy and fight for free and fair elections,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, said in a statement.
“Everytown is going to make sure voters know that far-right candidates like Mark Finchem and Kristina Karamo, who deny election results and cozy up to extremist groups, are putting both our democracy and our lives at risk,” Feinblatt said.
The ad against Finchem, who was at the U.S. Capitol during last year’s insurrection (but said he didn’t go inside), highlights his association with the Oath Keepers militia and denial of the veracity of the 2020 election results. And a mailer focusing on Karamo casts her as “too dangerous for Michigan” while noting her election denialism and opposition to abortion access.
Neither Finchem’s nor Karamo’s campaigns responded to requests for comment from ABC News.
Pressed on his own election denialism in the past, Finchem has said that as secretary of state, he would theoretically certify a reelection win for President Joe Biden “if the law is followed, and legitimate votes have been counted” and “if there’s no fraud.” But he told Time magazine, that “quite frankly, is a fantasy.”
Everytown is one of the country’s major supporters of increased gun laws. But Charlie Kelly, the group’s senior political adviser, said that electing lawmakers who will advocate for those changes is only possible if election results are certified — and if voters are free from violence while casting ballots.
“That’s why we’re engaging the secretary of state races,” Kelly told ABC News in an interview.
Kelly said Everytown is hoping that their investment can reach tens of thousands of voters, indicating the new emphasis on secretary of state and other down-ballot races. Both Finchem and Karamo are candidates in swing-states.
Former President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his own defeat in the 2020, by some seven million votes, has spurred a slew of Republicans running for office this year to cast doubt on the last election and this year’s races, with some candidates preemptively saying that if they win, it would be in spite of fraud — not because of the absence of it.
Kelly, the Everytown adviser, said that Arizona and Michigan were chosen for the advertising blitz after a collaboration with other groups to determine where the investment would go the furthest.
“These are ones that we determined we have an opportunity in. And again, as you’re looking at the battlefield, there are certainly a number of secretaries of state races across the board and across the country where there are extremist candidates running,” Kelly said, “but working again with partners to fill gaps and sort of where the needs are, these two rose to that level.”
Still, Kelly indicated that Everytown will not shy away from investing in secretary of state races in the future, suggesting that the contests will be focuses of Democrats and their allies beyond the midterms.
“If there are extremists and dangerous candidates like Finchem and Karamo running in future cycles, yes, we will be there in a significant way,” Kelly said. “These folks are putting their own sort of political priorities before our constitutional right to vote and our safety and should individuals like this decide to run in future elections, of course we’ll be there. We need to draw that contrast.”
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