Sen. Pat Toomey, one of the Democrats’ top targets in their quest to retake control of the U.S. Senate, is getting support from some unlikely places for a Republican: pro-gun control groups.
Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group co-founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, has thrown its support behind Mr. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, as well as GOP Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who is also in a tough re-election fight.
“In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Republican Sens. Pat Toomey and Mark Kirk broke from the gun lobby and supported a bill to help prevent felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining firearms at gun shows and online,” Ms. Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, wrote in a piece for CNN this week.
“This week, they are earning our organization’s endorsement,” they wrote.
Ms. Giffords was wounded by a deranged gunman at a constituent event in Arizona in early 2011.
Mr. Toomey, along with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, helped lead a high-profile push in the U.S. Senate to tighten gun-purchase background checks after the December 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Independence USA PAC, an outside group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also endorsed Mr. Toomey’s re-election bid earlier this month.
“In the wake of Newtown, Pat Toomey crossed party lines to lead the fight to reduce gun violence in America by co-sponsoring legislation to close the background check loophole,” said Mr. Bloomberg, a prominent gun control advocate. “His pragmatic leadership in Washington deserves the support of every Pennsylvanian.”
Mr. Toomey, Mr. Kirk, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine were the four Republican senators who voted in April 2013 for the background check measure, which failed to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Mr. McCain is also in a tough re-election fight this year, but still has to get through a GOP primary contest.
Ms. Giffords and Mr. Kelly said their group is also endorsing Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado and Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat who is running to replace retiring Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada.
They said Democrat Katie McGinty, who is challenging Mr. Toomey in Pennsylvania, is “a passionate advocate for gun violence prevention and would be a consistent vote for life-saving gun safety laws in the Senate.”
They also said Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who is running against Mr. Kirk, is a decorated veteran and an American hero and has been a champion for “common-sense” gun laws in the House.
“With so many more candidates running on a gun violence prevention platform, in some places the changing politics of gun safety has made our endorsement decision difficult,” they wrote.
In announcing its support for Mr. Toomey, Independence USA also said it is supporting Democrat Josh Shapiro, a candidate for state attorney general in Pennsylvania, and Joe Torsella, a Democratic candidate for state treasurer.
Mr. Bloomberg appeared at the Democratic National Convention last month in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania Democrats said Mr. Toomey is no moderate on guns.
“He’s stood in the way of common-sense gun safety laws and he would happily keep Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader, meaning that gun safety laws have almost no chance in the Senate,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman Preston Maddock.