|Although Republicans stonewalled common-sense gun reform legislation, they didn’t escape the political battle scot-free. Democratic campaigns and affiliated committees used the highly-salient event to build lists, acquire donors, and persuade voters. Here’s how they did it:
Both the House and Senate Democratic caucuses ran donor and email acquisition campaigns in the lead up to the special session, as well as during and after. Party caucuses can transfer funds to candidate committees, making their fundraising an important tool for shoring up funds in key races.
Candidates ran their own list building ads as well. Ghazala Hashmi, the Democratic candidate in SD10, started running a series of “Stop the NRA” advertisements that link to an email signup form. Her Republican opponent, incumbent Senator Glen Sturtevant, had… absolutely nothing to say about the special session on either paid or organic social media. Yet another example highlighting how many Republicans are struggling to reconcile their extreme positions in rapidly-changing districts.
Democratic candidates also utilized organic social media channels to push messages and establish contrasts in their races. Delegate Chris Hurst, who has been personally impacted by gun violence, spoke about his personal story. His story of a loved one’s murder caught fire on Twitter, driving the narrative in his own race and in districts throughout Virginia.
Although the special session is over, gun safety will likely remain an issue for many Democratic candidates throughout the election. Republicans have made it clear that the only way common-sense gun safety reforms will ever pass in Virginia is to vote them out — expect Democratic candidates to continue to use the issue to persuade and turn out voters.