Gun-control group launches ad targeting Sheriff Hodgson

Oct 20, 2022

With a little more than two weeks to go until Election Day, one of the largest gun-safety groups in the nation is pouring money into the race for Bristol County sheriff with an ad urging voters to oust longtime Republican incumbent Thomas Hodgson.

The digital spot from the Michael Bloomberg-founded Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund titled “Record (Massachusetts)” calls Hodgson’s record in office “extreme and dangerous,” highlighting several controversies the sheriff has faced in his 25-year tenure. 

This ad, which is the first such Everytown has run in Massachusetts, comes during a race between Hodgson and Democratic challenger Paul Heroux is considered a statistical tie, according to an internal poll conducted by Louis DiNatale of Princeton Research Associates.

Holly Robichaud, the spokesperson for the Hodgson campaign, responded to the allegations made in the ad, calling them “unscrupulous.”

“Every voter should be concerned about outside groups pouring in money attempting to unseat a pro-public safety sheriff,” she said.

In the ad, a narrator begins highlighting the sheriff’s record by claiming that he was “promoting conspiracy theories like denying the 2020 election results.”

The source used is a MassLive article from Jan. 6, 2021, which cites tweets Hodgson made after supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol building while lawmakers were certifying the 2020 election results

In one tweet, Hodgson wrote “Participating in violent protests is never the right answer, and it certainly is not the way to object to alleged election fraud.” He also called for an audit of the election at the time.

When asked by Dartmouth Week earlier this year about his stance on the 2020 election, Hodgson said “the results are what they are and we need to move forward.”

“There were many things said about discrepancies, but nothing’s revealed itself,” he said.

The ad then mentions that Hodgson is “on the board of a group founded by a white supremacist.” The group being referenced is the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an organization that has been categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The ad also highlighted a report by Massachusetts Attorney General (and current gubernatorial candidate) Maura Healey which found that Hodgson violated the civil rights of federal immigration detainees during an altercation in May 2020 at the Dartmouth jail. 

“[He has] a history of abusing detainees and violating their civil rights,” the narrator said.

According to Healey’s report, Hodgson and his staff violated their own internal policies and protocols around de-escalation and the use of canine units. It states that staff deployed pepper spray, extended-range batons, and flash bang grenades against detainees.

Hodgson has repeatedly denied the findings of the report, saying that the tactics used were “by-the-book” and were necessary in order to regain control of the ICE facility. 

He also claims the detainees started the incident.

As a result of the report, the federal government closed down the Dartmouth jail’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in May last year.

“Allow me to state one foundational principle: we will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in a memo announcing the facility’s closure.

The May 2020 incident is still under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

The 30-second spot is currently appearing on web platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. It has not run on any TV stations in the region, according to the latest filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

Additionally, no reports from Everytown have been filed with the state’s Office of Campaign & Political Finance as of Oct. 20. The group’s most recent expenditure was $500 this past May toward the campaign of Rebecca Lissi, who is currently running for mayor of Holyoke.

According to data on the Facebook Ad Librarythe Everytown ad first ran on Thursday, Oct. 20 and cost the New York-based group between $3,000 to $3,500 to run on the platform.

The ad, which currently has been seen by approximately 350,000 people and is estimated to reach an audience of up to 500,000 people, according to the Facebook data.

It is unknown how much the group paid for its ad placement on YouTube, which premiered on the site on Oct. 17, and has more than 1,000 views (although, the video is currently unlisted on the site). 

It is also unclear why the gun advocacy group has decided to focus on this particular race, as a representative from Everytown could not be reached for comment. The group’s website, though, does endorse Heroux, saying that he is “committed to governing with gun sense as a priority.”

A video of the ad is embedded in this story.