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Weeks after bringing in the big gun, Barack Obama, Democrat Mike Levin welcomed the big anti-gun Sunday — former Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords.

The Arizonan spoke briefly at the front-runner’s Solana Beach office in the 49th Congressional District race. She also is featured in a Levin 30-second TV ad to begin airing Monday. It targets Diane Harkey, his GOP rival as successor to Rep. Darrell Issa.

“How can we stop the shootings? By electing leaders who will fight for gun safety,” says a male voice in the ad featuring Giffords, who retired from Congress in 2012 after being shot in the head in Tucson a year earlier.

A woman’s voice says: “Diane Harkey has an A rating from the NRA. She stands with the gun lobby.”

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords hugs Chrissy Levin as son Jonathon, 6, hides between his mother's legs.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords hugs Chrissy Levin as son Jonathon, 6, hides between his mother’s legs. Photo by Chris Stone

“Not us,” she continues, with a thumbs down icon.

After Mark Kelly, her husband the former shuttle astronaut, tells his endorsement, Giffords enunciates with determination: “We must stop gun violence. Vote for Mike Levin.”

The ad was shot this past summer, around the time Giffords and Kelly endorsed Levin. It was taped near the site of President Nixon’s “Western White House” in San Clemente, Levin said.

About 150 people, including 50 with the Moms Demand Action anti-gun group, turned out for the rally, which also included Rep. Susan Davis of the nearby 53rd District and Jim Dean, a younger brother of former presidential candidate Howard Dean and chairman of the Democracy for America political action committee (which calls for Donald Trump’s impeachment).

NASA veteran Kelly spoke a little over 3 minutes, noting that his shuttle was up the freeway in Los Angeles at the California Science Center.

He urged the audience to resist complacency amid a predicted “Blue Wave” electoral sweep.

“I don’t want you to feel in this district or around the country that it is a done deal. It is not,” he said, recalling how his wife’s pollster in 2008 saw a 10- to 12-point victory a few weeks out, but won by less than 1 percent.

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“Every door you knock on matters,” he said.

Then Giffords, after reviewing her notes, stood up and spoke for 41 seconds:

“These are scary times,” she said. “Racism, sex and lies and violence. It’s time to stand up for what’s right. … It’s time for courage. … We must stop gun violence. … Make our country a safer place, a better place. Do you have the courage to fight?”

Giffords concluded: “Stand with me. Vote. Vote. Vote. On Election Day, your voice matters. Please join your voice with mine.”

(Levin’s campaign manager, Adam Berkowitz, said Giffords became available when her team notified them “they were planning on doing another West Coast swing, and obviously we would be honored to have her launch our Sunday canvass.”)

Watching from the back of the room was Paul Moore, 66, a Vietnam veteran who said he hasn’t been active politically since “we got rid of Nixon.”

Registered to vote in Point Loma, he’s a retired Silicon Valley technology company owner (sold to his employees) who lives off a boat currently moored in New Zealand.

“This election, and the last one, have gotten me more interested in being part of the process,” he said. “So I am devoting this month of my life to the election.”

Assigned to contact absentee voters via a phone app, Moore says he’s been with the campaign a week and already knocked on 100 doors.

“I’m hoping that Mike can be part of a discourse that becomes more civil and more rational,” he said. “He sounds like the kind of candidate that can reach across the aisle and hopefully make a difference in returning us to some sense of rationality in our government.”

Sitting in the front row with her husband, Larry, was Lainy Pinikow of Oceanside, who carried a family photo. Her Tucson son-in-law, Bob Pagano, was at the Safeway near the January 2011 “Congress on Your Corner” event when he heard shots that killed six.

Pagano helped comfort Giffords aide Pam Simon, one of the 12 wounded.

Larry Pinikow, who lives in a retirement community, said eight of nine neighbors are backing Levin. (One has a Trump sign, he said.)

Levin’s views on gun legislation have been laid out. He wants universal background checks, elimination of military style assault weapons, and fully funded Centers for Disease Control research on gun violence (“We need to get to the bottom of this epidemic.”)

Now he’s highlighting contrasts with Harkey, who has a 93 percent NRA voting record (and an “A” lifetime score) since her years in the state Assembly.

“My opponent is very extreme on this issue,” he said in an interview after the half-hour rally, saying she “touted” the endorsement of a group (San Diego Patriots) that suggested on Facebook that the school shootings in Parkland, Florida, were a “false-flag” conspiracy theory.

“I hope you call her out on it,” Levin said. “Newsweek did (a report) about 12 days ago, and nobody else has. I think it’s reprehensible.”

Updated at 10:45 p.m. Oct. 14, 2018