Gun-control advocate Gabby Giffords stumps for Omar Montgomery in Aurora mayor’s race

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AURORA | Supporters packed a small room at the Arapahoe County Democratic Headquarters on Saturday as former Arizona Congresswoman, shooting survivor and gun-control advocate Gabrielle Giffords endorsed Omar Montgomery for Aurora mayor. 

“These are scary times: racism, sexism, violence. It’s time to stand up for what’s right. It’s time for courage. We must do something. We must stop gun violence,” she told the crowd of about 60 people. “Do you have the courage to stand with me? Vote, vote, vote.” 

Giffords, the advocacy group notably focused on electing politicians in favor of stricter gun legislation, the former congresswoman and her husband founded, announced the endorsement this week.

“This is the most immediate form of government that is going to be responding to constituents,” Giffords managing director Robin Lloyd said of the endorsement. “It is really important that we have leaders working at every level, and we hope to have that with Omar Montgomery in office.”

In 2017, Giffords endorsed mayoral candidates in Seattle, Boston and Albuquerque and sheriffs in previous races, but uses most of its resources in contentious congressional races, like the 6th Congressional District in 2018 when then-incumbent Mike Coffman was up against Jason Crow, who won the race by more than 10 points.

“One thing we focus on is gun violence and what our elected officials can do, and when we were looking at this mayoral race we saw the contrast between the candidates,” Lloyd said. “It’s inspiring to hear (Montgomery) talk on this issue and the stark difference to Mike Coffman, who was in the pocket of the NRA and did nothing to address gun violence.”

Coffman is now running for Aurora mayor, a point that did not go ignored at the endorsement announcement.

“I have no respect for Mike Coffman… he’s a coward,” said Lonnie Phillips, who attended the event with his wife Sandy. The couple’s daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed in the Aurora theater shooting in 2012.

“When I heard him (Montgomery) speak, I knew he was gonna kick Coffman’s ––” Lonnie Phillips trailed off, clearing his throat. The Phillips’ also endorsed Montgomery along with state Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat.

This week Coffman’s campaign told the Sentinel “Aurora deserves better” than “national politics infecting our mayor’s race.”

Montgomery told the crowd at the endorsement gathering he never considered himself a gun violence survivor until he started thinking about a party he attended in Los Angeles where a gang shooting killed two people and wounded four more.

“You’re a survivor,” Lonnie Phillips affirmed from his seat behind the podium. 

Montgomery did not detail existing or new city laws that would be the focus of a local gun-control policy.

On the public safety front, Montgomery said he’d like to address Aurora’s loss of police officers and firefighters to Denver first, then move on to how to better prepare those agencies to keep Aurora safe.

Lloyd said a mayor’s work with public safety and police departments is crucial to addressing gun violence.