October 14, 2010

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if political endorsements weren’t really about recommending the best candidate?

As a sportsman, a gun owner, and a believer in the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms, I place a lot of weight in what the National Rifle Association has to say. That trust was shaken just a bit this week.

I have to admit that I’ve never voted for a candidate specifically because of their stance on the 2nd Amendment or because they are endorsed by the NRA. Still I pay attention to the high profile lobbyist group that fights for our gun right’s.

So I was a bit caught off guard by last week’s news from Senator Wes Shoemyer, announcing his official endorsement by the NRA as their candidate of choice in the race for the 18th District U.S. Senate seat.

My bewilderment had nothing to do with Shoemyer, who is a proven supporter of the second amendment, per his A ranking by the NRA. However, his opponent, First District State Representative Brain Munzlinger, has done him one better, earning an A+ ranking.

Call me crazy, but if the kid with an A+ grade point average was sitting in the stands at graduation watching the A student giving the valedictorian speech, most of us would feel like the wrong winner had been chosen.

Apparently the NRA’s endorsement policies are being questioned by more than just me. The NRA put out the following information entitled “The How & Why Behind NRA-PVF’s Endorsement Policies.”

The groups Political Victory Fund statement reads:

“We have an incumbent-friendly policy that dictates our support for pro-gun incumbents seeking reelection over pro-gun challengers, as voting records trump statements in support of the Second Amendment.  We stand with our friends who stand with us in Congress or the state legislature.  We would lose all credibility if we abandoned our friends who have stood by us.  Of course, should a pro-gun challenger win his election, then he will be the beneficiary of this policy when he seeks re-election.”

Note the portion of this statement that I highlighted in bold. Who from the NRA is standing with Brian Munzlinger, the candidate who has earned an A+ grade? I suspect they did just what they sought not to, lost credibility by failing to stand with those who have stood with them.

The NRA-PVF describes an A+ legislator as a “legislator with not only an excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues, but who has also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment.”

An A rated lawmaker is a “Solidly pro-gun candidate. A candidate who has supported NRA positions on key votes in elective office or a candidate with a demonstrated record of support on Second Amendment issues.”

Both sound pretty good, but I like the one who has made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment a little better and I’m perplexed why the NRA doesn’t feel the same way?

In an interview with the National Review Online, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) stated:

“We hear from people who aren’t happy with some of the endorsements we’ve made. But we also have to understand the political reality. If we turn our back on the politicians who stood with us, there’s no incentive for other politicians to stand with us when we’re fighting the gun-control lobby or attacks from the national news media. It’s important to keep perspective. We put a lot of time, effort, and research into this, working through all these candidate questionnaires and interviewing candidates in many of these cases. We try to give our members and gun owners a clear choice.”

Does not this endorsement contradict everything said in that statement?

By trying not to turn their back on Shoemyer, they did just that to Munzlinger. I know Brian. He will continue to stand with us, his constituents, when Second Amendment issues are raised. Fortunately for us, he does that because it’s right, not because of “the incentives for politicians to stand with the NRA” like earning an A+ ranking only to have your opponent endorsed.

If the NRA won’t reward Brian for his efforts, maybe those who want an A+ senator should. I’m sure his campaign would welcome any $35 contributions, that anyone may previously have been planning to send to the NRA to renew their membership.

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