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Political Report: The 2007 Elections

Thursday, December 13, 2007

You can't turn on your TV or pick up a newspaper without seeing coverage of the presidential race. Every day, it's nonstop coverage of who went where, who said what, and the media spin on what it all means.

In truth, none of it means anything real--until the votes are cast. We'll see some of those votes cast in primaries and caucuses in the early states this month, and we'll see a lot more votes cast on Feb. 5, when 21 more states will hold their primaries. On Feb. 6, we could have a pretty good idea of who the party nominees will be. But we can't stop the media from obsessing over the horse race, in daily and excruciating detail.

They're so obsessed with the presidential race that
few media outlets paid any attention to the 2007 elections.
But here at NRA Headquarters, we sure did.

They're so obsessed with the presidential race that few media outlets paid any attention to the 2007 elections. But here at NRA Headquarters, we sure did. In the five states that held major "off-year elections," we made hundreds of key endorsements, and mailed thousands of postcards from the NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF). We sent thousands of e-mails to NRA members, and published our endorsements on the NRA-PVF website at www.nraPVF.org for a members-only preview. Then we did everything else we could think of to make sure NRA members and gun owners had all the facts on the candidates running in their local districts.

We had excellent results overall. Voters in Mississippi and Louisiana, with haunting memories of gun confiscation after Hurricane Katrina fresh in their minds, re-elected Haley Barbour as governor of Mississippi and elected Bobby Jindal as governor of Louisiana--both champions of our ongoing campaign to ensure that gun seizures can never happen again, anywhere in America, in times of emergency or natural disaster.

State legislative results were more of a mixed bag. Voters are clearly restless, and they voted for change in 2007 much as they did in 2006. Issues like the economy, illegal immigration and more varied local issues carried the day. One trend that carried forward from 2006 was the sheer number of elections that were extremely close, decided by margins of just a few hundred votes. One key Virginia state Senate race is awaiting a possible recount decision--decided, at press time, by just 92 votes. We must spread the word as the 2008 elections approach--in a nation that is so evenly divided, every vote counts that much more.

Right here in Fairfax, Va., where your NRA Headquarters is located, we had a state Senate race with national implications. Our Second Amendment rights were at the core of the campaign--and the race even attracted a visit from gun-ban New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Bloomberg came to Fairfax to endorse Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, a Republican candidate up for re-election to the state Senate. Davis had an ugly record on Second Amendment issues--for instance, she sponsored and pushed hard for a bill to restrict gun shows out of business, solidly earning her "F" rating from NRA-PVF. And she was proud of her record--so much so, in fact, that she led with her chin in her first series of tv ads.

Davis' ad was a typical negative attack, and it accused her Democratic opponent Chap Petersen of being "wrong on guns." It said he voted to relax restrictions on the holders of Right-to-Carry permits, specifically whether permit holders could carry their firearms in county parks and recreation centers.

Davis was counting on a knee-jerk anti-gun reaction from the voters in this suburban, "moderate" district just outside the nation's capital. But if the voters were scared of Virginia permit holders, they didn't show it at the voting booth. And they must not have shown it in Davis' extensive polling, either.

Davis upped the ante, pouring more money into spreading her message of fear in the expensive D.C. market. She even tapped the campaign account of her husband, u.s. Representative Tom Davis, R-Va., to the tune of over $400,000. And she must have called around to the gun-ban lobbyists who had endorsed her for help. Apparently, somebody had the bright idea to invite New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Virginia.

Bloomberg touched down in his private jet, and he proudly appeared to endorse Davis for supporting "tougher gun laws." According to The Washington Post, "Bloomberg acknowledged that endorsing a legislative candidate in another state was unusual, but he said the gun issue is of such importance to him that the trip was worthwhile."

Even the reporters seemed to doubt the mayor's sanity. A cnn correspondent noted, "On the anti-gun issue, Bloomberg is a man arguably possessed." cnn anchor Wolf Blitzer followed up, telling Bloomberg "You know a lot of Virginians, they resent the New York City mayor coming in to Virginia getting involved in what they consider a state issue, the issue of guns in Virginia."

This time, the media had it right. Bloomberg's endorsement backfired, and Davis went down to defeat on Election Day by the large margin of 55-45 percent.

For a race that was very close going into its final days, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis presented a primer-perfect example of how to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. She went out of her way to antagonize gun owners, then brought in a bossy out-of-state politician--the country's most prominent self-appointed gun control activist--for comfort and support. You have to wonder what they were thinking.

But I, for one, am grateful for Bloomberg's intervention. Since the race took place in the backyard of the nation's capital, we know that hundreds of lawmakers saw firsthand how disastrous Bloomberg's embrace turned out to be.

The next time Bloomberg wants to endorse an anti-gun candidate for state legislature, I only hope we get enough advance notice to publicize the event ourselves.

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