- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group is set to spend heavily in at least one key legislative election in Virginia.

Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund said Wednesday that it plans to spend $700,000 helping the Democratic candidate in a closely contested Richmond-area state Senate race that could determine which party controls the upper chamber.

Gun issues have become a hot political issue in Virginia, where the Virginia Tech mass shooting took place in 2007 and a TV reporter and cameraman near Roanoke were shot and killed in August during a live broadcast.

Bloomberg’s group plans to run TV ads featuring Andy Parker, father of slain WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker.

Andy Parker said he and his wife have been active attending rallies for some Democratic candidates and will continue to do so through Election Day.

“We’re doing what we can to help these guys,” Parker said. “Anybody that’s going to stand up and say, ‘Yes, we’re supporting common-sense gun legislation, we’ll try and be there.”

In particular, Parker said he’d like to see a law requiring universal background checks on all gun buyers.

The Everytown TV ad targets Glen Sturtevant, the Republican nominee for the 10th Senate District, with a narrator saying Sturtevant’s campaign is funded by the gun lobby and if elected he would “make Virginia families less safe.”

In a statement, Sturtevant’s campaign manager, Matt Brown, said Sturtevant is “committed to ensuring that our federal and Virginia gun laws are strictly enforced and no one ineligible to possess a firearm does so.”

Sturtevant is facing off against Democrat Dan Gecker in what could be the most expensive legislative contest in Virginia’s history. Republicans currently control the state Senate 21 to 19, and Democrats, led by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, are spending heavily to try and flip control of the upper chamber.

McAuliffe has also tried to make gun control a major campaign issue, and signed an executive order last week prohibiting the open carry of firearms in some state-owned buildings.

The billionaire Bloomberg has been an outspoken gun control advocate and has spent heavily to back politicians who support his agenda around the country. His political action committee spent more than $3 million helping Virginia Democrats in the 2013 elections. A spokeswoman for Everytown declined to say whether the group plans to spend in other contested legislative races this year.

Another gun control group affiliated with former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, a victim of gun violence, has spent at least $130,000 on independent expenditures statewide, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project.

The National Rifle Association has spent at least $340,000 on independent expenditures, including $56,000 in the 10th Senate District, according to Virginia Public Access Project.

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