The Tri-City Herald reported that the advertisement for Estakio Beltran generated a lot of criticism after it was posted last week, including from a group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who survived a gunshot wound to the head in 2011.
"Mr. Beltran's ad showing him shooting a stuffed elephant - the longtime symbol of the Republican Party - is irresponsible and offensive," said the statement from Americans for Responsible Solutions. "This kind of misguided imagery and rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum just furthers the lack of balance in our nation's debate about guns."
Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, started Americans for Responsible Solutions in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.
The video opened with Beltran posing in a high-desert landscape.
"They call me a long shot. They say I can't win in this district," his voice-over says. "But what happens to an elephant when it stands around, doing nothing, for too long?"
The camera panned to an elephant piñata, and then back to Beltran, who blasted it in the backside with a pump-action shotgun.
"My name is Estakio Beltran," he said. "And I approved this message."
Beltran then rode off on a donkey toward a sign pointing toward the U.S. Capitol.
Some conservative websites argued Democrats would object if a GOP candidate fired a gun at a donkey, the symbol of the Democratic Party.
Beltran's campaign removed the video from YouTube on Saturday.
"The purpose of the video was to call attention to a do-nothing Congress in need of a kick in the butt," campaign spokesman Grady O'Brien said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. "Now it's time to move forward and focus on the issues that are important to the people of this district: jobs through innovation, education, and accountability in Washington, D.C. Estakio's message of bringing a fearless new energy to Congress remains the same."
Beltran, 30, is one of a dozen candidates running to replace retiring Republican Rep. Doc Hastings in the 4th District, which covers much of central Washington. The primary will be held Aug. 5, with the top two vote-getters advancing. The district hasn't elected a Democrat since 1992.