Sep 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Everytown launches $1 million ad buy attacking Ron Johnson on crime

Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund is pouring $1 million into new television ads urging Wisconsin voters to oust Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), accusing him of enabling rising crime and gun violence, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The attack on Johnson is one of the most prominent examples of Democrats flipping the script against Republicans on the issue of crime — which has become a potent GOP attack in the final stretch of the midterms — by tying it to gun safety.

What we're watching: "Mass shootings, school shootings and violent crime are on the rise, and Ron Johnson is making things worse," a narrator says in the new 30-second ad, which is slated to appear in the Madison and Milwaukee media markets.

  • "He abandoned law enforcement, voting against funding the police, preventing local departments from hiring more officers, but supported flooding our streets with guns."
  • The new ad buy from Everytown — the gun safety group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — marks the first time the group has spent in a U.S. Senate race this cycle, with more to follow.
  • It comes on top of the approximately $2 million the group has already spent during the midterm campaign.

The big picture: Crime and public safety have emerged as top midterm issues, with both parties pouring tens of millions into key races to paint the opposing party as responsible for the uptick in crime over the past two years.

What they're saying: “Politicians like Ron Johnson talk tough on crime in an attempt to distract from their disastrous record. The reality is they’re making things worse and failing to keep people safe," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, told Axios.

The other side: In the same state, new ads from the Senate Leadership Fund — Republicans' top Senate super PAC — have relentlessly attacked Democratic nominee Mandela Barnes for his support for ending cash bail.

Other Democrats across the country are pushing back with ads of their own in response to GOP attacks on crime.

  • John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, released an ad in response to incessant attacks from his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz in which he cited "public safety" as the reason he ran for office.
  • "Dr. Oz in his Gucci loafers is attacking me on crime. Dr. Oz wouldn't last two hours here in Braddock," Fetterman says in the ad. "We did whatever it took to fund our police and stopped gun deaths for five years."
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