Gun control group investing millions in the 2018 election endorses a Miami Republican

Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control organization founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, shown at a Coral Springs event Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, will spend at least $2 million on Florida’s midterm elections.
Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control organization founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, shown at a Coral Springs event Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, will spend at least $2 million on Florida’s midterm elections. mocner@miamiherald.com

A national gun control group co-founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is endorsing Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in the nation’s most expensive House race.

Everytown for Gun Safety announced Tuesday that Curbelo was one out of 10 Florida lawmakers running for statewide or federal office who received an endorsement, and the only Republican on the list. Curbelo faces Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the November general election for a Miami-to-Key West seat that has seen more TV spending from both sides than any other House race in the country.

“A sincere national dialogue and Congressional action to modernize gun safety has remained elusive for far too long,” Curbelo said in a statement. “Public officials — and our society as a whole — must work together to close outdated loopholes and address vulnerabilities in our laws, while still protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights. I’m humbled by this endorsement, and I look forward to continuing to work with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to keep Americans safe.”

Curbelo has not been able to pass substantive gun control legislation over the past two years in Washington, though he did introduce a bill after the Las Vegas shooting that would ban devices that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire like automatic weapons and he criticized the National Rifle Association when it didn’t back his bill. His campaign also donated money to a transportation fund that allowed Parkland students to attend the March For Our Lives in Washington.

Mucarsel-Powell has also made guns a part of her campaign message, noting in ads that she lost her father to gun violence when she was 24. She supports an assault weapons ban while Curbelo has said an assault weapons ban should be “on the table.”

Everytown is one of the nation’s largest gun control organizations and announced on Monday that it plans to dump at least $2 million to help the Democratic candidates seeking Florida cabinet positions — and Republicans running for the state Senate who helped pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act over the objections of the NRA. The organization has also made six-figure donations to Democrat Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign.

“Everytown is a bipartisan organization and we support candidates of both parties who stand up for gun violence prevention,” spokesperson Kate Folmar said in a statement. “Both Rep. Curbelo and his opponent are champions of gun violence prevention. Rep. Curbelo has a proven track record of Congressional leadership on gun safety issues and we are proud to endorse him.”

The group donated $1,000 to Curbelo’s campaign months ago, spending that is distinct from the $2 million outlay announced on Monday. Everytown did not announce any additional spending in the race where both sides are spending nearly $1 million a week on TV ads.

The organization cited Curbelo’s bump stock bill, his support for a bill that would ban guns from individuals on the no-fly list, his decision to bring a gun violence survivor to President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address and his support for commercial background checks as its reasons for endorsing him.

The group also expressed support for Mucarsel-Powell’s gun violence record.

Everytown also announced endorsements for Democrats Donna Shalala and Mary Barzee Flores in the other Miami-Dade congressional races. Shalala is running for an open seat vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen while Barzee Flores is running against Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who has received more money from the NRA than any other House Republican from Florida.

Curbelo’s gun control talk has kept the nation’s largest gun control groups from endorsing Mucarsel-Powell. The Giffords Campaign has endorsed Shalala and Barzee Flores but has not endorsed in Curbelo’s race while the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence has also endorsed Barzee Flores and Shalala but hasn’t endorsed Mucarsel-Powell.

Congress did not pass any substantive gun control legislation after Parkland, though it did pass a bill supported by both parties that funds school safety efforts. It’s unlikely that any major gun control legislation becomes law before the 2020 election even if Democrats make gains in the House and Senate this year, though Parkland and the March For Our Lives movement thrust gun politics into a top tier issue ahead of the 2018 elections in Florida.

Alex Daugherty, @alextdaugherty, 202-383-6049