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Gun control group Everytown to spend $8 million on Texas races

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 11:  A view of an art installation against gun violence at March For Our Lives 'Road To Change' & Life Camp Unity Celebration on August 11, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 11: A view of an art installation against gun violence at March For Our Lives 'Road To Change' & Life Camp Unity Celebration on August 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images) (2018 Noam Galai)

(CNN) – Everytown for Gun Safety announced Wednesday that it is pouring $8 million into Texas to elect "gun sense" candidates, the gun-control group's largest election effort ever in the state.

"We believe Texas can be the next emerging battleground with gun safety as a tipping point," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown, said Wednesday on a phone call with reporters.

The group had previously announced that it plans to spend $60 million for the 2020 elections, double what it spent in the 2018 midterms, "in order to elect a new gun sense president and win competitive races up and down the ballot." That $60 million figure is also the group's largest spending during an election cycle. The group will also be spending in Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Georgia among a handful of other competitive states.

In 2019, Everytown spent $2.5 million in Virginia, making it the largest outside spender in the elections that saw Democrats take control of the state legislature for the first time in a generation.

This year in Texas, the group plans on targeting US congressional seats held by four incumbent Republican congressmen, filling the seats of three more GOP congressmen who are retiring and defending two seats held by Democrats who have aligned with the group's supported gun policies.

Everytown will also direct its resources to over two dozen Texas state House races, with a focus on the Dallas and Houston suburbs.

The group will identify "gun sense" candidates to support by having them fill out a Moms Demand Action questionnaire, according to Chris Carr, Everytown's political director.

Republicans currently control both the state Senate and House, as well as the governorship. All 36 US representatives and 150 state House representatives are up for election in 2020.

Watts said the group is investing in Texas because of the state's high rates of gun violence deaths. She also pointed to the state's shifting demographics becoming younger and increasingly diverse.

In August, a gunman killed 22 people and injured nearly two dozen more when he opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. Less than a month later, during Labor Day weekend, seven people and 22 others were killed in a shooting spree in West Texas.

In a memo, Everytown said it will roll out mailings and digital ads, including Spanish language ads.

The announcement of the group's large spending in Texas comes as the pro-gun rights National Rifle Association's spending in federal races has dropped sharply in recent years.

Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who's seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was a co-founder of Everytown and has been a large financier of the group's efforts in past years.

Asked Wednesday by a reporter on the media call about Bloomberg's involvement or contribution, Watts said, "We're an independent organization totally separate from Mayor Bloomberg's campaign."

“Mike and I founded Everytown together. He’s a critical part of the movement. But as the movement has grown, so has our organization and our funding. Mike has consistently provided between a quarter and a third of our funding, depending on the cycle. In 2019, he provided about 25% of our contribution. But our grassroots engagement has grown in leaps and bounds,” she said.