Former congresswoman Giffords works to help Democrats win Va. General Assembly on gun issue

Former congresswoman Giffords works to help Democrats win Va. General Assembly on gun issue

By Antonio Olivo

March 22

The gun-control group headed by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords plans to endorse Democrats in two key Republican-held districts in Virginia on Friday, part of an effort to help the party regain control of the General Assembly in the fall.

The Giffords group said it will support Dan Helmer in his Fairfax County race against Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax), and Del. John Bell (D-Loudoun) in his bid to fill retiring Republican Sen. Richard H. Black’s Loudoun County seat.

Peter Ambler, director of the group created by Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband Mark Kelly after she survived a 2011 assassination attempt by a gunman, said the organization also plans to become involved in other General Assembly races.

All 140 seats in the state Senate and House of Delegates are on the ballot in November, when Virginia will be the only U.S. state in which the parties are in a competitive fight for control of the legislature.

A Democratic majority in both chambers would allow gun-control advocates to pass legislation mandating universal background checks and other restrictions, Ambler said. The GOP, which maintains a razor-thin majority in both houses, killed dozens of gun-safety bills in the legislative session that ended last month.

“Not only does getting these folks into the majority give us what we need to pass lifesaving legislation, it gives them a mandate to do that,” Ambler said.

Ambler said his group’s political action committee — which last year spent $1 million on behalf of Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in her successful bid to unseat former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) — remains undecided on whether it will give financial support to the candidates in Virginia.

But Giffords is to appear Sunday in McLean at a joint fundraiser for Helmer and Bell, he said.