Here is this year’s installment of NRO’s biennial Second Amendment Tip Sheet. This document provides the Second Amendment perspective on all Senate and gubernatorial races, and selected House races.
The first rating is from the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund. (The NRAPVF website
also provides ratings for all state-legislative and other races.) For candidates who have equal grades, you may want to check out the NRAPVF site to see if a candidate won the NRA endorsement; typically the NRA endorses incumbents when two candidates are equal.
The second rating, for federal races, is from Gun Owners of America. For some races where the NRA and GOA grades diverge significantly, I asked the GOA for their explanation, and in a few cases obtained further clarification from the NRA.
A “?” or “NR” means that the candidate refused to answer the group’s questionnaire. A candidate who refused both the NRA and GOA questionnaires can usually be considered a solid F. An asterisk before a candidate’s name means the candidate is an incumbent. Much of the background information about districts and candidates comes for the National Journal website, and from the Almanac of American Politics.
Illinois is certain to replace a mildly pro-gun senator with a strongly antigun one. There is a serious possibility that Alaska and Colorado may elect Democrats who would be much less supportive of the Second Amendment than their Republican predecessors. Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina all have open seats with a realistic chance of electing pro-gun Republicans to replace Democrats who usually or always voted wrong on guns. South Dakota is the only state in which an incumbent antigun Democrat could be defeated.
So the potential range of Senate results on election night for Second Amendment rights ranges from -3 to +3. A result on the higher end would create a good possibility of enacting legislation to prohibit abusive lawsuits against firearms manufacturers.
Alabama: Polls show that incumbent Republican Senator Richard Shelby (A/C) faces an unexpectedly close race against Democrat Wayne Sowell (A/B-). GOA gives Shelby a C because of some bad votes in the 1999 post-Columbine frenzy. Since then, his votes have been fine.
Alaska: Republican Senator Frank Murkowski, first elected in the 1980 Reagan landslide, was always a reliable vote on Second Amendment issues, although never a leader. In 2002, he was elected governor, and appointed his daughter Lisa (*A/B-), a state legislator, to fill the vacancy. Almost any other Republican could have held the seat with ease, but the nepotism issue has put Murkowski in a very close race against former two-term Democratic Governor Tony Knowles (B/NR). As governor, Knowles vetoed several pro-gun bills, but is now claiming to be a Second Amendment supporter.
Arizona: Republican John McCain (*C/F-) posed as a strong Second Amendment supporter during the 2000 Republican presidential primaries. But in the next session of Congress, he sponsored the McCain-Lieberman gun-show bill, which would have given the federal government the administrative power to prohibit all gun shows, and to register everyone who attends a gun show. And of course the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law is the most extreme congressional assault on First Amendment rights since the Sedition Acts of the Woodrow Wilson and John Adams administrations. McCain’s Democratic opponent, Stuart Starky (C/F), is no better.
Arkansas: Democratic Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln (*D+/F) has abandoned her nominally pro-gun stance from her days as a U.S. Representative. Back then, she voted against the 1994 Clinton ban on so-called “assault weapons,” but remained “on the bench” in case her vote was needed to pass the gun ban. Republican challenger Jim Holt (A/A) would be a major improvement for this pro-gun state, which has a record of electing antigun Democrats.
California: Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (*F/F–) has been a leader on the wrong side of every gun issue–except for armed pilots, where she has been just as strong a leader on the right side. She co-sponsored successful legislation to ensure that cargo pilots can also be armed. She is challenged by Secretary of State Bill Jones (D/NR).
District 20: Pathetically, California’s gerrymandering means that only one of the state’s 53 House seats is competitive. In an open-seat contest in the Central Valley, Republican Roy Ashburn (A/A) offers a clear contrast to Democrat Jim Costa (F/D).
Colorado: Republican brewer Pete Coors (A/A-) has taken rock-solid positions on all gun issues. Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar (D/D) was supportive of Colorado’s 2003 “shall issue” law for concealed handguns. But after the 1999 Columbine massacre, he was widely rumored to have made a deal with Governor Bill Owens that if Owens would support some gun control, Salazar would not challenge Owens in the governor’s race in 2002. Owens did announce a five-point gun-control program, which Salazar supported; all of the Owens-Salazar bills were defeated in the state legislature. Owens and Salazar then teamed up to support a 2000 initiative that imposed special restrictions on gun shows. Salazar’s national ambitions and strong ties to trial lawyers would probably pull him further in an antigun position; he is, however, much less antigun than anyone else the Colorado Democrats have nominated for the U.S. Senate in the last 20 years (except for Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who was first elected in 1992 as a Democrat).
District 3: Ken Salazar’s older brother John (A/NR) is running for an open seat covering western and south-central Colorado. During his brief tenure in the legislature, he compiled a perfect NRA voting record. His Republican opponent, Greg Walcher (A/A), also had a strong record in the legislature, which he left to serve as executive director of the Department of Natural Resources under Governor Owens.
District 4: Covering the eastern plains and the Colorado State University town of Fort Collins, the fourth district has elected a succession of increasingly conservative Republicans: Bill Armstrong, Wayne Allard, Bob Schaffer, and now first-termer Marilyn Musgrave (*A/A+). At the September 25 Gun Rights Policy Conference outside Washington, D.C., Musgrave gave the keynote address, and was introduced by the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund as “the Margaret Thatcher of the gun-rights movement.” Along with Virginian Virgil Goode, Musgrave founded the congressional Second Amendment Caucus.
She is challenged by former Colorado State Senate President Stan Matsunaka (C/D-), whom she defeated in 2002 when the seat was open. Matsunaka did not enter the 2004 race until this spring, perhaps tantalized by secret polling, and the prospect of raising money from the large constituency that hates Musgrave for her sponsorship of a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage. In the Colorado senate, Matsunaka occasionally cast tactical pro-gun votes, particularly when he eyed the possibility of running for Congress. But even at his best he is still mediocre, whereas Musgrave is a Second Amendment star.
District 7: Republican Bob Beauprez (*A/B-) won this new open seat–which forms a crescent west, north, and east of Denver–by a tiny margin in 2002. Beauprez’s current opponent is Dave Thomas (F/C-), the district attorney of Jefferson County (Colorado’s most populous county). Thomas has a mixed record as DA, the lowest points being his participation in Jefferson County’s cover-up of law-enforcement failures preceding the Columbine massacre, and his being duped by a couple who invented a hate-crime hoax as part of an ugly dispute with their neighbors. GOA’s Larry Pratt told me that Thomas’s grade was the result of an internal mistake, and that Thomas’s proper grade is F-.
Connecticut: Democrat Chris Dodd (*F/F-) is the son of Senator Thomas Dodd, sponsor of the odious Gun Control Act of 1968, the foundation of modern federal gun laws. His opponent, Jack Orchulli (?/NR), gives no indication of being any better–and trails by over 40 points.
District 2: Republican Rob Simmons (*A/B) pulled off a major upset in the small towns of eastern Connecticut when he defeated well-established incumbent Sam Gejdenson in 2000. Simmons’s opponent is Jim Sullivan (C/NR).
Delaware: Governor Ruth Ann Minner is a Democrat with an A rating from the NRA. Her pro-rights stance is crucial in a state that is a perennial battleground in the state legislature. Her Republican opponent, William S. Lee (A-), is all right, but Minner has the NRA endorsement.
Florida: The retirement of antigun Senator Bob Graham offers a realistic chance of a pick-up for Second Amendment rights. The race between Republican Mel Martinez (A/B) and Democrat Betty Castor (F/NR) is very, very tight. As a Florida Education Commissioner, Castor even opposed allowing the NRA’s acclaimed Eddie Eagle gun-safety program into schools–although the Eddie Eagle curriculum is apolitical, and simply teaches children that, if they find a gun, they should “Stop! Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.”
District 2: In this Tallahassee district, Democrat Allen Boyd (*A/C) faces Republican State Representative Bev Kilmer (A/A). Boyd is a leader of the Blue Dogs, a collection of conservative Democrats who play a constructive role in supporting traditional Democratic values, and in attempting to restrain the excesses of the party’s extremists from the northeast and the far west.
Animal-rights activists picket the annual Boyd Family Dove Hunt, which raises money for charity. Boyd was the only Floridian to vote for the Dingell Amendment in 1999, which softened proposed restrictions on gun shows. Boyd’s wrong votes are McCain-Feingold and two votes in 1999 against restoring Second Amendment rights to citizens of the District of Columbia. Boyd did, however, vote in favor of restoring D.C. rights in 2004.
District 13: Republican Katherine Harris (*A/C) is serving her first term after her distinguished service as Florida secretary of state, during which she resisted Al Gore’s effort to steal the 2000 election. Her opponent in this Sarasota district is Jan Schneider (F/F), whom Harris beat 55-45 in 2002. Although Harris had a weak candidate questionnaire in 2002, her voting record in Congress has been fine.
Georgia: Retiring Democrat Zell Miller was a pro-rights leader in Congress. His likely successor, establishment Republican Johnny Isakson (A/B), has a good voting record, but no record of leadership to campaign on against his opponent, Denise Majette (F/F).
District 3: Democrat freshman Jim Marshall (*A/A) used to teach business law at Mercer University Law School, and beat Calder Clay (A/NR) 51-49. Clay is trying again this year.
District 12: Savannah freshman Republican Max Burns (*A/A) was elected president of the Republican freshman class. He faces John Barrow (C/NR) in this Democratic-leaning “higher education district,” so named for its many colleges and universities.
Idaho: Mike Crapo (*A/B) is co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus, and is unopposed for re-election.
Illinois: Republican Alan Keyes, a carpetbagger from Maryland, is stellar on gun issues (A/A) and strongly articulates how the Second Amendment is an essential safeguard against tyranny. But–like John Kerry–he is learning that mean-spirited attacks on Mary Cheney are not very popular with moderate voters. He may not even crack 30 percent, and he is dragging down Republicans all over the state.
The next senator from Illinois, Barack Obama (F/F), proved at the Democratic National Convention that he would be a much better spokesman for black Democrats than race-baiters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Unfortunately, Obama is an antigun extremist. As a state senator, Obama even voted against a bipartisan bill that would prohibit criminal prosecutions of people who used unlicensed guns to lawfully defend their homes against violent felony invaders.
District 8: First elected to Congress in 1969 from a district northwest of Chicago, Republican Phil Crane (*A/A) has an impeccable pro-gun record–even voting against gun-control laws that have been authorized as an acceptable compromise by the NRA. He beat Democrat Melissa Bean (F/F) 57-43 last time, and this time she hopes to win.
Indiana: In the early 1970s, Democratic Senator Birch Bayh sponsored legislation to ban most handguns, by labeling them “Saturday Night Specials.” His son Evan Bayh compiled a generally pro-gun record as governor, and was elected to the Senate–where he quickly became a gun-rights opponent (D-/F). Challenger Marvin Scott (A/A) has a very long way to go in order to win.
The race for governor between Republican Mitch Daniels (A) and Democrat Joe Kernan (A) is very close; Daniels has the NRA endorsement.
District 2: In this South Bend district, Republican Chris Chocola (*A/A) is challenged by Joseph Donnelly (A/NR).
District 8: This southwestern Indiana district is known as “the bloody eighth” for its extremely close races. Republican John Hostettler (*A/A+) defeated a twelve-year Democratic incumbent in 1994 by emphasizing gun rights. In 2000, Hostettler was the lead sponsor of the “Gun Owner Protection Act,” which prohibited federal contracting preferences for companies that agreed to sign on to the Clinton antigun agenda. (The one company that had capitulated to Clinton–Smith & Wesson–has since withdrawn from the agreement.)
Hostettler has also been a leader on restoring the Second Amendment rights of citizens of the District of Columbia, and on the issue of armed pilots, defeating efforts to allow only a small number of pilots to bear arms.
His race this year is even tougher, because this spring, Hostettler accidentally left a handgun in a briefcase that he brought to an airport, and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
Hostettler never has easy races, because he refuses to take PAC money, and is often outspent by his opponents. His opponent this time, Jon Jennings (?/NR), has raised twice as much as Hostettler. Jennings (who served as a fellow in the Clinton White House and a lobbyist in the Reno Department of Justice) remains coy on the gun issue, but it is clear that Hostettler’s defeat would be a major loss for Second Amendment leadership in Congress.
District 9: Democrat Baron Hill (*A/C) beat a strongly pro-gun Republican to win this southeastern Indiana seat in 1998. Since then, he has kept the NRA happy, but been less satisfactory to GOA. Challenger Mike Sodrel (A/A) pleases both groups.
Hill’s two wrong votes were in favor of McCain-Feingold, and against the amendment of Rep. Chip Pickering (R., Miss.), which would have stated that the Second Amendment is an individual right, and would have exempted Second Amendment groups from the McCain-Feingold censorship.
Iowa: Republican Charles Grassley (*A /C) looks unbeatable against Arthur Small (F/C). Grassley took the lead in successfully rolling back Clinton regulations that had attempted to impose the federal Gun Control Act, which is supposed to cover only modern firearms, on certain muzzle-loaders. Grassley has also been an outspoken critic of federal law-enforcement abuses, including Ruby Ridge. GOA lowered Grassley’s grade because, like Alabama’s Richard Shelby, he succumbed to some of the post-Columbine panic.
District 1: Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (*A/C) represents this always-competitive district in northeast Iowa, which voted 52 percent for Gore. He faces Bill Gluba (C/D). Like Grassley, Nussle had several bad votes in 1999, and even voted then against the restoration of rights to District of Columbia citizens. Since 1999, his voting has been fine.
District 3: Democrat Leonard Boswell (*A/C-) represents this central Iowa district. It too is competitive, thanks to Iowa’s non-partisan re-districting law, which should become a national model. His challenger is Stan Thompson (A/A). Boswell’s wrong votes are the same as Baron Hill’s (Indiana 9th). Polls show this race as close as 3 percent, partly because Boswell is breaking his term-limits pledge.
Kansas: Republican Senator Sam Brownback (*A/B) looks secure against Democrat Robert Conroy (?/NR).
District 2: Covering most of eastern Kansas except for Kansas City, this district is represented by Republican Jim Ryun (*A/A), who in 1965 was the first high-schooler to run a four-minute mile. A Christian conservative, Ryun is in serious danger of losing to Nancy Boyda (F/NR), who is following the strategy of Americans for Gun Safety: claiming to be pro-gun, while supporting the usual litany of crackdowns on law-abiding gun owners.
District 3: Representing Kansas City since 1998, Democrat Dennis Moore (*F/F) has compiled an antigun record that makes him an extremist by Midwestern standards. Republican Kris Kobach (A/A), formerly a White House fellow, has a good chance of winning an upset with an unorthodox strategy: He has concentrated on motivating his base, and bringing in new voters, rather than shuffling toward the center. Moore has demonstrated his scurrility by resurrecting false charges that Larry Pratt (who heads Gun Owners of America and who supports Kobach) is a racist–even though Pratt is married to a Panamanian and speaks Spanish at home.
Kentucky: The only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame ever elected to Congress is Republican Jim Bunning (ERA 3.24, 224W-184L, nine children, 32 grandchildren). Bunning (*A+/A-) was expected to win reelection easily, but some believe that his 73 years of age are showing, and Democrats are hoping that Daniel Mongiardo (A/NR) will be the surprise of the year.
District 3: Louisville Republican Anne Northrup (*A/C-) improved a previously weak record on guns in the last congressional term. She faces Democrat Tony Miller (A/NR). GOA’s grade is based on her career performance, not the last term.
District 4: In a northern Kentucky open seat, Democratic newspaper columnist Nick Clooney (F/NR) faces Republican West Point graduate and Army Ranger Geoff Davis (A/A).
Louisiana: The first round of the Senate contest takes place on November 2. If nobody wins 50 percent, a run-off will be held in December. Republican David Vitter (A/A) holds a large lead, but is not above the 50 percent threshold. His top opponents are Democrats Chris John (A+/C), and then John Kennedy (B-/NR). Lagging Democrats are Arthur Morrell (F/D) and Sam Melton (A/NR).
Republican Vitter hunts and fishes once in a while, but does not own any guns. State Treasurer Chris John, however, is a lifelong outdoorsman, and taunts Vitter: “I’ll challenge him. From bow hunting to shotgun shooting to duck calling, I’m the real sportsman in this race.” Vitter does not dispute John’s sporting prowess. Chris John’s lower grade from GOA is based on his support of McCain-Feingold, and two votes that would have seriously weakened the armed pilots program, although John did vote for the final bill.
Vitter is polling in the high 40s, while John and Kennedy are in the teens, vying for the right to face Vitter in the second round. Some strategic pro-gun voters may choose to support John, thus ensuring that the run-off will involve two strongly pro-Second Amendment candidates.
District 3: From the NRA perspective, this is a win-win-win-win-win-win situation in Democratic southeast Lousiana. The Democrats are Charlie Melancon (A/A), Charmaine Caccioppi (A/NR), and Damon Baldone (A/F). Republicans are Billy Tauzin III (A/A-), son of a retiring congressman; Craig Romero (A/A); and Kevin Chiasson (A/A-).
GOA gives Baldone an F for supporting trigger locks, gun-show restrictions, and gun licensing in his questionnaire. The NRA says that Baldone filled out its federal-candidate questionnaire perfectly, and suggests that GOA’s questionnaire may not have been sufficiently clear.
The NRA also points to State Rep. Baldone’s 2003 votes for the Right To Hunt & Fish Constitutional Amendment (see below), for the Right to Carry Reciprocity Bill (so that Louisiana handgun carry licenses could be used in other states), and against a “Gun-Free Parade Zone” bill in committee, which would have established a large gun-free zone around all parades–even for people who were not attending the parade.
In any case, Baldone is unlikely to win this race, and will probably return to the Louisiana legislature, where he will continue to vote pro-rights.
District 7: Along with District 3, this southwestern constituency is the heart of Cajun Country. Five candidates are vying to succeed Chris John, and two of them appear strong on gun rights: Democrat Willie Mount (A/NR) and Republican Charles Boustany (A/A). The other three would be big setback for the district: Democrats Don Cravins (C/NR) and Malcolm Carriere (?/NR), and Republican David Thibodaux (?/NR).
Louisiana voters will also be asked to decide on a referendum to guarantee a state constitutional right to hunt, trap, and fish. The right is uncontroversial in contemporary Louisiana, but no one can predict whether it will be preserved a century from now if it does not have constitutional protection.
Maryland: In 1992, Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski (*F/F) smashed Alan Keyes 71-29 to win her second term. Political junkies can bet on whether Barack Obama will exceed Mikulski’s trouncing of Keyes. Maryland Republican E.J. Pipkin (A/A) might best Keyes’s performance, but is not within winning range.
In the suburbs south of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Republican John Kline (*A/A), a 25-year Marine, beat antigun Bill Luther on the third try. Teresa Daly (D/NR) looks to defeat the first-termer.
District 6: The suburbs north of Minneapolis-St. Paul are represented by Republican Mark Kennedy (*A/A-). He is opposed by Patter Wetterling (F/NR), a “child-rights advocate” who is backed by MoveOn.org and PeacePAC.
Missouri: Republican Kit Bond (*A/C) is safe against Nancy Farmer (F/F). His lower grade from GOA is also a post-Columbine phenomenon.
Virulently antigun Governor Bob Holden lost the Democratic primary to antigun Claire McCaskill (F). Her opponent is Republican Matt Blunt (A), and the race is very tight.
In the separate race for lieutenant governor, Republican Peter Kinder (A+) vies with Democrat Bekki McDowell Cook (F).
As attorney general, Democrat Jay Nixon (*D-) performed his duty by successfully defending the state’s new “shall issue” concealed-handgun-permit law against lawsuits brought by gun-prohibition advocates. But challenger Chris Byrd (A) supports gun rights even when not required to do so by legal ethics.
And keep an eye on State Senate District 15. Republican incumbent Mike Gibbons is slated to become president pro-tem of the Missouri senate. In the last legislative session, he changed his mind, and provided the decisive vote to override the governor’s veto, and to create a law allowing law-abiding Missouri citizens to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun. His Democratic opponent, Jeanne Kirkton, is a nurse and a passionate antigun advocate who is emphasizing the concealed-gun vote in her campaign.
Montana: In an open race for governor/lieutenant governor, Republicans Rob Brown (A) and Dave Lewis (A-) are NRA-endorsed against Democrats Brian Schweitzer (A) and John C. Bohlinger (C).
Nebraska: District 1: This open seat includes Lincoln and much of eastern Nebraska. Republican Jeff Fortenberry (A/NR) is up against Democrat Matt Connealy (D/F).
Nevada: As the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid (*B/F) has often pleased his caucus by voting for gun control. He was, however, a relatively early and very important co-sponsor of legislation to prohibit abusive lawsuits against firearms companies.
Republican Richard Ziser (A/A) does not appear to be competitive.
New Hampshire: Republican Senator Judd Gregg (*C/D-) was formerly pro-gun, but now rarely votes for the Second Amendment when the issue is close. Opponent Doris “Granny D” Haddock (F/NR) would not even do that. She gained national fame in 2000 for walking over 3,000 miles to draw attention to “campaign-finance reform,” showing herself to be the most athletic nonagenarian censorship advocate in American history.
The more important race for Second Amendment rights is the gubernatorial contest, where incumbent Republican Craig R. Benson (*A+) holds a very slender lead over John Lynch (?).
New Mexico: District 1: Albuquerque Congresswoman Heather Wilson (*A/B-) never has it easy in this very even district, but the Republican and retired Air Force officer has held the seat since 1998. State Senate President Pro-tem Richard Romero (F/F) fought very hard against concealed-handgun carry legislation for years. Wilson is not perfect; she voted against arming pilots and against the “Gun Owner Protection Act.” (See Indiana 8th.) Nevertheless, the wide gap between Wilson and Romero makes this one of the top House races for gun rights.
New York: Democratic Senator Charles Schumer (*F/F-), one of the most energetic gun-control advocates in Congress, is not seriously threatened by Howard Mills (A/A).
District 27: This open seat comprises two-thirds of Buffalo, plus some suburbs. Democrat Brian Higgins (A/NR) and Republican Nancy Naples (A/NR) are both pro-rights.
District 29: In a southwestern New York open seat, Republican State Senator Randy Kuhl (A/A) faces Democrat Samara Barend (?/NR).
Recently, sealed records from Kuhl’s 1994 divorce were illegally given to the media. According to the court files, Kuhl’s ex-wife alleged that “in or about 1994, while the parties were hosting a dinner party at their home, the defendant took out two shotguns and threatened to shoot plaintiff.” Kuhl’s ex-wife denounced the “ugly politics” and the invasion of family privacy perpetrated by the record thieves.
North Carolina: Retiring Senator John Edwards showed tactical brilliance by foregoing a very tough re-election race so that he could make a bid for the national limelight. Republican Richard Burr (A/A) offers one of the best chances for a pro-gun pickup. He is neck and neck with Erskine Bowles (C-/F), Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff.
In the governor’s race, incumbent Democrat Mike Easley (A) has a solid lead over Patrick Ballantine (A).
District 11: Republican Charles Taylor (A/A) has represented the independent and mountainous west of the state since 1990. He has a very close race with Buncombe County Commissioner Patsy Keever (?/NR).
North Dakota: Republican Governor John Hoeven (*A+) is NRA-endorsed against Joseph Satrom (A). Some hunters are angry with Hoeven for not increasing restrictions on non-resident waterfowl hunters, and for changing the pheasant season. The Lewis and Clark Wildlife Club counters that Hoeven has more than tripled the amount of private land available for hunting.
In no state of the union is the congressional delegation so far out of step with popular sentiment about gun rights as in North Dakota. Unfortunately, Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan (*D+) is expected to beat Mike Liffrig (A). Dorgan has been getting negative attention for his brief appearances in Michael Moore’s deceptive Fahrenheit 9/11. Although Dorgan did not have editorial control over the movie, his choice to appear in a film by a well-known anti-American enemy of the Second Amendment revealed extremely poor judgment.
In the at-large U.S. House seat, Democratic Representative Earl Pomeroy (*C/F) won only 52-48 last time, and this year faces Duane Sand (A/A), who may benefit from Bush’s landslide. Observers agree that the race is very tight.
Ohio: When George Voinovich (*D/D) was mayor of Cleveland and governor of Ohio, he was hostile to the Second Amendment, and has remained consistently so in the Senate. Opponent Eric Fingerhut (F/F) is far worse, an impassioned antigun advocate, more extreme than even Charles Schumer (who, at least, sometimes acknowledges an individual Second Amendment right).
Oklahoma: In this open-seat race, Republican Tom Coburn (A/A+) and Democrat Brad Carson (A/B) will go down to the wire. GOA downgrades Carson because of his support for McCain-Feingold, and adds, “Even if both had the same voting records, the difference on the leadership issue means Coburn has to be the pick, hands down.”
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (*F/F) has a huge lead over Al King (A/B).
District 5: In the Willamette Valley, Democratic incumbent Darlene Hooley (*F/F) has a clear stance on the gun issue. But why did GOA give challenger Jim Zupancic (C/A) a much better grade than the NRA did? Larry Pratt explained to me, “We wuz lied to. We went over Zupancic’s questionnaire with him personally. We only learned of his deception after the grades were in print.”
Pennsylvania: First elected in 1980, Republican Arlen Specter (*A/C-) is likely to be the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Should Specter lose and the Republicans retain the Senate, the next chairman would probably be the much more reliably pro-gun Jon Kyl or Charles Grassley. Although Specter’s record on guns is uneven, he votes right more than he votes wrong, and was a leader in investigating federal law-enforcement abuses at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, when an FBI sniper shot an unarmed mother. Specter’s opponent, Joseph Hoeffel (F/F-), is a darling of the Brady Campaign, and has recently closed the race to single digits.
District 6: This southeastern district includes Valley Forge, Amish country, and Philadelphia suburbs. Republican freshman Jim Gerlach (*A/B) faces Democrat Lois Murphy (F/NR).
District 8: An open seat in suburban Bucks County, which leans slightly Democratic, is attracting national attention. Republican Michael Fitzpatrick (A/NR) is a social conservative. His opponent, Virginia Schrader (D/F), has aligned herself with anti-American hate propagandist Michael Moore by holding a screening of Fahrenheit 9/11 as a fundraiser.
District 15: Pat Toomey’s old seat is now open, and the district gives neither side a partisan advantage. Democrat Joe Driscoll (D/F) vies with Republican Charles Dent (A-/C).
District 17: In the beautiful Susquehanna Valley, Blue Dog Democrat Tim Holden (*A/C) is challenged by Scott Paterno (A/A-). Holden’s lower rating from GOA stems from his vote for McCain-Feingold.
South Carolina: The race to replace retiring antigun Fritz Hollings was supposed to be an easy win for Jim DeMint (A/A). But the race has closed. Democrat Inez Tenenbaum (C/NR) purports to be pro-gun; but she opposes restrictions on abusive lawsuits organized by the gun-prohibition lobbies, supports prohibition of various self-loading firearms, and supports special restrictions on gun shows.
South Dakota: Long, long ago, Democrat Tom Daschle (*F+/F) was pro-gun, until he began to climb the Senate leadership ladder. Facing a difficult race against John Thune (A/B), he feinted in the pro-gun direction, by co-sponsoring a bill against abusive antigun lawsuits. But on the floor of the Senate, he sabotaged it by supporting antigun amendments, and refusing to allow the bill to go to conference, unless the antigun amendments would remain in place.
Democrat Stephanie Herseth (*A/NR) won a special election for the at-large House seat earlier this year. Her opponent is Larry Diedrich (A/B).
Tennessee: District 4: Rural central Tennessee is represented by Democrat Lincoln Davis (*A/A). Davis grew up on the family farm, which had been bought from Sergeant Alvin York, the gun-wielding heroic American sharpshooter of World War I. He is endorsed by the NRA, and has vowed that no opponent will “out-gun me, out-pray me, or out-family me.” He will not even say whether he supports John Kerry. Last election, Davis beat self-described “pistol-packin’ mama” Janice Bowling (A/A) by 52-46, and they are having a rematch.
Texas: District 1: First elected to this Texarkana district in 1996, Democrat Max Sandlin (*A/C) faces Republican Louie Gohmert (A/A). GOA downgrades Sandlin for supporting McCain-Feingold and opposing the Pickering Amendment. (See Indiana 9th.)
District 2: On the Gulf Coast, Democrat incumbent Nick Lampson (*A/C) is challenged by Ted Poe (A/A). His C from GOA is for the same reasons as Max Sandlin’s.
District 17:First elected in 1990 to this central Texas district, which includes Waco and Crawford, Democrat Chet Edwards (*C-/F) occasionally votes pro-rights, but not usually. He faces Republican Arlene Wohlgemuth (A/A).
District 19: This is one of the new districts created by the Republican gerrymander. Democratic Representative Charlie Stenholm (*A/C), first elected in 1978, has an excellent record on guns, but gets downgraded by GOA for his vote in favor of McCain-Feingold and against the Pickering Amendment (see Indiana 9th). Republican Representative Randy Neugebauer (*A/A) leads in the polls in a district that may vote for President Bush by a margin of three to one.
District 32: This new gerrymandered seat around north Dallas pits Republican incumbent Pete Sessions (*A/A) against Democratic incumbent Martin Frost (*F/F), who has served since 1978. The former has a solid pro-gun record, even though his father, William Sessions, finished a very poor career as FBI director by pandering to Clinton-administration gun control. Frost is so antigun that he even voted against armed pilots. Sessions has a modest but hardly insurmountable polling lead.
Utah: Incumbent Republican Senator Robert Bennett (*A/D) is secure against Paul van Dam (?/NR). Bennett would have gotten a C from GOA for the same reasons as Alabama’s Richard Shelby, but this year he voted for a mandatory trigger-lock proposal.
In the governor/lieutenant-governor contest, the Republican team of Jon Huntsman Jr. and Gary Herbert (A/A) lead Democrats Scott M. Matheson Jr. and Karen Hale (?/ D-).
Currently, the University of Utah is defying state law, which authorizes licensed, trained adults to carry handguns for lawful protection on public college campuses and other public schools. The sensible legislative decision ensures that schools will not be safe zones for criminals, who could perpetrate violent crimes in the secure knowledge that none of their law-abiding victims would be able to protect themselves. Huntsman, however, argues that school boards and college trustees should be allowed to ban guns on campus. But he also told the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board that he “would not spend a great deal of political capital early” in trying to change the law.
Democrat Scott Matheson is the former dean of the University of Utah Law School, and he flatly states that guns should be forbidden in schools and churches.
District 2: Covering half of Salt Lake City and much of rural Utah, this district was designed to prevent the election of a Democrat. But Democrat Jim Matheson (*A/C) won in 2002, and has a huge polling lead over John Swallow (A/A). Matheson loses points from GOA for the same reason Charles Stenholm does (see Texas 29th).
Vermont: This is another state with a congressional delegation far more supportive of federal gun control than the state’s political culture would suggest. First elected in 1986, Democratic Senator Pat Leahy (*D/F) has been a disappointment on Second Amendment rights, although he occasionally votes right and is sometimes a leader on other civil-liberties issues. Republican Jack McMullen (?/NR) might well be worse.
In the governor’s race, first-term Republican Jim Douglas (*A) looks safe against Peter Clavelle (B).
Virginia: District 8: Representing the D.C. suburbs, Democrat Jim Moran (*F/F-) has been an effective antigun leader, especially on the Appropriations Committee. His challenger is Lisa Cheney (?/NR).
District 9: This far southwestern district is called “fighting ninth” for its many close races. Incumbent Democrat Rich Boucher (*A+/A-) faces Kevin Triplett (A/A), a former NASCAR official.
Washington: Incumbent Democratic dimwit Patty Murray (*F/F) appears to be fending off a challenge from Republican George Nethercutt (A/A-), who beat Rep. Tom Foley in 1994 by using the term-limits issue, but then broke his own term-limit pledge in 2000.
Retiring Governor Gary Locke was very antigun. His successor will be Republican Dino Rossi (A) or Democrat Christine Gregoire (?). Gregoire leads in the polls, but Rossi is within striking distance.
District 5: Centered on Spokane, this eastern Washington district was represented by Democrat Tom Foley until 1994. Foley had been a pro-gun powerhouse for many years, until Bill Clinton was elected, and Foley switched sides. As Speaker of the House, Foley illegally extended the time period for the vote on the “assault weapons” ban until enough Democrats could be found to vote for it. The “assault weapon” ban cost the Democrats the House of Representatives, as Bill Clinton has twice acknowledged. The ban also cost Foley his own seat; his wife stated that the gun issue lost Foley ten percent of the vote.
With George Nethercutt running for Senate, the seat is open for the first time in decades. Republican Cathy McMorris (A/A) has a good lead over Democrat Don Barbieri (F/NR).
District 8: East of Seattle are thriving towns such as Bellevue, home of the Second Amendment Foundation. Republican Dave Reichert (B-/NR), the King County sheriff, faces Democrat Dave Ross (F/F), a radio talk-show host who is leading.
West Virginia: In the governor’s race, Democrat Joe Manchin III (A+) is sure to defeat Monty Warner (A).
Wisconsin: Two-term Democratic Senator Russ Feingold (*D/F) occasionally votes pro-gun, and has always believed the Second Amendment is an individual right. In 2004, he reversed his earlier position, and opposed the renewal of the ban on so-called “assault weapons.” His opponent is Republican Tim Michels (A/NR).
–Dave Kopel is research director at the Independence Institute.