Politics & Policy

Gunning for Victory

Second Amendment voter guide.

In a very tough election climate for Republicans, the good news is that the gun issue is increasingly non-partisan. We can see this every day in the Senate, where Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is friendlier towards the Second Amendment than was Republican Senate majority leader Howard Baker in the 1980s.

We can also see this in the potential results. The very worst-case scenario for the Second Amendment is -7 in the Senate, and -26 in the House. This would be a terrible outcome, but it is considerably better than the very worst-case scenario for Republicans in both houses. That the former is better than the latter reflects the National Rifle Association’s success in working with pro-gun Democrats. Obviously the more realistic scenario would be smaller losses in both houses, with perhaps a few pick-ups in the U.S. House.

There are a lot of races were pro-gun Republican incumbents are being challenged by pro-gun Democrats — no net loss for the Second Amendment. As for the races where anti-gun Republicans face anti-gun Democrats, there is a peripheral Second Amendment value in a Republican win, in that it is important for the Democrats’ margin of control to depend on pro-gun Democrats; that way, the leadership sees the issue as a crucial one.

What follows is a Second Amendment overview of every governor and U.S. Senate race, and the top 50 House races identified by RealClearPolitics. Print it and take it with you to the polls. But first, a quick look at the situation in the nation as a whole. Here’s a summary of the races most likely to make a difference.

Potential Senate losses: Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon.

Potential Senate gains: Louisiana.

Certain Senate gain: Virginia.

Potential House losses: Alaska, Arizona (2), California (1), Colorado (1), Florida (4), Idaho (1), Michigan (2), Minnesota (1), Missouri (2), Nevada (1), New Jersey (2), New York (3), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (1), Virginia (1).

Potential House gains: Kentucky (1), New Hampshire (1), Pennsylvania (1).

In the state-by-state analysis below, the first grade listed for each candidate is from the the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund. A “?” means that the candidate did not respond to the NRA questionnaire. An “AQ” is for a candidate whose answers to the 2008 NRA-PVF Candidate Questionnaire are good, but who does not have a track record of Second Amendment votes.

The second grade is from the Gun Owners of America Political Victory Fund, which tends to grade much more severely than does the NRA. GOA’s scorecard this does not include governor races. An “NR” means the candidate did not respond to the GOA questionnaire. A candidate who refused to respond to both the GOA and the NRA questionnaires can safely be assumed to be anti-gun.


Alabama’s two competitive House race are good examples of relatively conservative, pro-gun Democrats running competitively in traditionally Republican territory.

Senate: Republican Jeff Sessions (A+,A) vs. Democrat Vivian Figures (NR, NR).

House, 2nd District: Republican Jay Love (A,A) vs. Democrat Bobby Bright (AQ, NR)

House, 5th District: Republican Wayne Parker (R) (AQ, A) vs. Democrat Parker Griffith (D)(A, NR).


Senate: Republican Ted Stevens (A+,C) vs. Democrat Mark Begich (AQ,D).

At-large House seat: Republican Don Young (A+,B) v. Democrat Ethan Berkowitz (C,C).


House, 1st District: Republican Sydney Hay (AQ,A) vs. Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick (D,NR).

House, 3rd District: Republican John Shadegg (A,A-) vs. Democrat Bob Lord (?,NR).



Senate: Democrat Mark Pryor (C-,D), unopposed.


McClintock has been an outstanding leader on right to arms issues in California. His 2001 speech on the subject in a classic, displaying a deep understanding of the importance of firearms ownership to a free society.

House, 4th District: Republican Tom McClintock (A,A) vs. Democrat Charlie Brown (B-,NR).


House candidate Musgrave is one of the founders of the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus.

Senate: Republican Bob Schaffer (A,A) vs. Democrat Mark Udall (C,F).

House, 4th District: Republican Marilyn Musgrave (A,A) vs. Democrat Betsy Markey (?,NR).


If Markell wins the governorship, it would postpone the enactment of concealed-carry-licensing reform.

Senate: Republican Christine O’Donnell (AQ,NR) vs. Democrat Joe Biden (F,F-).

Governor: Republican Bill Lee vs. Democrat Jack Markell.


Five of the 50 most-competitive House races this year are here. Four of them involve pro-gun Republican incumbents facing anti-gun Democrats. The one endangered Democrat, Tim Mahoney, gets mixed grades and faces a pro-gun challenger.

Senate: Republican Saxby Chambliss (A+,A) vs. Democrat Jim Martin (?,C).

House, 8th District: Republican Rep. Ric Keller (A,A) vs. Democrat Alan Grayson (?,NR).

House, 16th District: Democrat Tim Mahoney (A,C) vs. Tom Rooney (AQ,A).

House, 21st District: Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart (A-,A-) vs. Democrat Raul Martinez (?,NR).

House, 24th District: Republican Tom Feeney (A+,A) vs. Democrat Suzanne Kosmas (F,F).

House, 25th District: Republican Mario Diaz-Balart (A,A-) vs. Democrat Joe Garcia (?,NR).


Senate: Republican Saxby Chambliss (A+,A) vs. Democrat Jim Martin (?,C).

House, 8th District: Republican Rick Goddard (AQ,NR) vs. Democrat Jim Marshall (A,B)


Senate: Republican Jim Risch (A,A) vs. Democrat Larry LaRocco (A,A).

House, 1st District: Republican Bill Sali (A,A+) vs. Democrat Walt Minnick (D+,NR).


In the House, there are two opportunities for Democrats to pick up seats, but the results will not alter the Illinois delegation’s Second Amendment balance.

Senate: Republican Steve Sauerberg (AQ,D) vs. Democrat Richard Durbin (F,F-).

House, 10th District: Republican Mark Kirk (F,F) vs. Democrat Dan Seals (?,NR).

House, 11th District: Republican Martin Ozinga (AQ,A) vs. Democrat Debbie Halvorson (A,A)


Governor: Republican Mitch Daniels (A+) vs. Democrat Jill Long Thompson (D).

IowaSenate: Republican Christopher Reed (AQ,A) vs. Democrat Tom Harkin (F,F).


Senate: Republican Pat Roberts (A,B) vs. Democrat Jim Slattery (F,F).

House, 2nd District: Republican Lynn Jenkins (C,C) vs. Democrat Nancy Boyda (C,B-).Kansas has a great collection of Second Amendment activists, but the Republicans have given them no reason to help with a possible House pick-up this year.


Senate: Republican Mitch McConnell (A,B) vs. Democrat Bruce Lunsford (?,NR).

House, 3rd District: Republican Anne Northup (A,A-) vs. Democrat John Yarmuth (F,F).



Republican John Kennedy (A,A) vs. Democrat Mary Landrieu (C,F).

House, 6th District: Republican Bill Cassidy (A,NR) vs. Democrat Don Cazayoux (A,A-).



Senate: Republican Susan Collins (C+,F) vs. Democrat Tom Allen (F,F).


Senate: Republican Jeff Beatty (A,NR) vs. Democrat John Kerry (F,F-).



Senate: Republican Jack Hoogendyk (A,A) vs. Democrat Carl Levin (F,F).

House, 7th District: Republican Tim Wallberg (A,A) vs. Democrat Mark Schauer (D+,NR).

House, 9th District: Republican Joe Knollenberg (A,A-) vs. Democrat Gary Peters (D,F).



The Minnesota Senate vote could determine the outcome of many future filibusters.

Senate: Republican Norm Coleman (A,B) vs. Democrat Al Franken (F,F).

House, 3rd District: Republican Erik Paulsen (A,A) vs. Democrat Ashwin Madia (D,NR).

House, 6th District: Republican Michele Bachmann(A,A-) vs. Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg (AQ,C).


Senate (special election): Republican Roger Wicker (A,A-) vs. Democrat Ronnie Musgrove (A,NR).

Senate: Republican Thad Cochran (A,C) vs. Democrat Erik Fleming (A-,C).

House, 1st District:: Democrat Travis Childers (A,A) won a special election in June, and was lead sponsor of the bill (which passed the House but stalled in the Senate) to reform the District of Columbia’s abusive gun laws. Even though the bill did not pass, it convinced the D.C. City Council to re-legalize self-loading guns, and to lift the gun storage law which made home nearly impossible. Childers faces Republican Greg Davis (A,B), whom he defeated in the special election.


House, 6th District: Republican Sam Graves (A,A-) vs. Democrat Kay Barnes (?,F).

House, 9th District: Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer (A,A) vs. Democrat Judy Baker (C,NR).

Governor: Republican Kenny Hulshof (A) vs, Democrat Jay Nixon (C).



Governor: Republican Roy Brown (A) vs. Democrat Brian Schweitzer (A).

Senate: Republican Bob Kelleher (?,NR) vs. Democrat Max Baucus (A+,D).


House, 3rd District: Republican Jon Porter (A,A-) vs. Democrat Dina Titus (B-,C-).

New Hampshire

Senate: Republican John Sununu (A,A) vs. Democrat Jeanne Shaheen (F,F).

House, 1st District: Republican Jeb Bradley (A,A) vs. Democrat Carol Shea-Porter (F,C-).

Governor: Republican Joe Kenney (A) vs. Democrat John Lynch (C) .

New Jersey

Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg (F,F-) proposed a national ban on licensed carrying of concealed handguns — a ban which Obama also favors. Lautenberg’s opponent is former Rep. Dick Zimmer (D,F). Ignoring the lousy choices for Senate, pro-rights activists may instead invest their time in the House, 3rd District: Republican Chris Myers (A-,NR) vs. Democrat John Adler (F,F).

House, 7th District: Republican Leonard Lance (C,B) vs. Democrat Linda Stender (F,F).

New Mexico

Senate: Republican Steve Pearce (A,A) vs. Democrat Tom Udall (C-,F).

House, 1st District: Republican Darren White (A,NR) vs. Democrat Martin Heinrich (A,NR). The situation in the 1st district is a nice change from previous years, in which Republican Heather Wilson hung on by her fingernails against anti-gun candidates. This year, Albuquerque is safe for the Second Amendment.

House, 2nd District: Republican Ed Tinsley (A,A) vs. Democrat Harry Teague (AQ,NR).


New York

Next to Florida, the Empire State has the greatest potential for Second Amendment setbacks.

House, 13th District: Republican Bob Straniere (AQ,D) vs. Democrat Mike McMahon (F,NR).

House, 25th District: Republican Dale Sweetland (A,C-) vs. Democrat Dan Maffei (F,F).

House, 29th District: Republican Randy Kuhl (A,A-) vs. Democrat Eric Massa (C, NR).


North Carolina

In the open seat race for governor, the race is close between Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (B-) and Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue (A). Running for president in 2000, Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole (A,A) took criticized concealed handgun carry. But in the Senate, her voting record has been good. In a very tight contest, her opponent is Democrat State Sen. Kay Hagan (F,F). 8th District, south-central N.C.: Republican Rep. Robin Hayes (A,A) vs. Democratic schoolteacher Larry Kissell (AQ,B-).

North Dakota

Governor: Republican John Hoeven (A+) seeks a third term against State Sen. Tim Mathern (F). He could win by the largest margin in any gubernatorial race this year.


House, 1st District: Republican Steve Chabot (A+,A-) vs. Democrat Steve Driehaus (D,C-).

House, 2nd District: Republican Jean Schmidt (A,A) vs. Democrat Victoria Wulsin (?,NR).

House, 15th District: Republican Steve Stivers (A-,C) vs. Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy (F,F).

House, 16th District: Republican Kirk Schuring (A,B) vs. Democrat John Boccieri (A-,B).


Smith’s NRA grade is too high, and his GOA grade absurdly low. In any case, he would be far better than his challenger.

Senate: Republican Gordon Smith (A-,F) vs. Democrat Jeff Merkley (F,F).


House, 3rd District: Republican Phil English (A,A) vs. Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper (F,NR).

House, 10th District: Republican Chris Hackett (AQ,A) vs. Democrat Chris Carney (B,C-).

House, 11th District: Republican Lou Barletta (AQ,A) vs. Democrat Paul Kanjorski (A,D).

House, 12th District: Republican Bill Russell (AQ,A) vs, Democrat John Murtha (A,F).

Rhode Island

Senate: Republican Bob Tingle (?,C) vs. Democrat Jack Reed (F,F).

South Carolina

Senate: Republican Lindsey Graham (A,B) is unorthodox on many issues, but not on guns. His opponent isDemocrat Bob Conley (AQ,A).

South Dakota

Senate: Republican Joel Dykstra (A,A) vs. Democrat Tim Johnson (A,D). Johnson will almost certainly win a third term.


Senate: Republican Lamar Alexander (A,A-) vs. Democrat Bob Tuke (B,NR).


Cornyn is a leader on judicial-appointment issues, which are critical to the Second Amendment in the long term. He is ahead, but not entirely safe.

Senate: Republican John Cornyn (A,A) vs. Democrat Rick Noriega (?,NR).

House, 22nd District: Republican Pete Olson (AQ,B) vs. Democrat Nick Lampson (A,C).


This is an unusually weak pair, by Utah standards, on Second Amendment issues.

Governor: Republican Jon Huntsman (B-) vs. Democrat Bob Springmeyer (D).


Governor: Republican Jim Douglas (A+) vs. Democrat Gaye Symington (C).


Good riddance to retiring Republican senator Jim Warner, who had a poor record on Second Amendment issues.

Senator: Republican Jim Gilmore (A,NR) vs. Democrat Mark Warner (A,NR).

House,11th District: Republican Keith Fimian (AQ,NR) vs. Democrat Gerry Connolly (F,F).


Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire (C-) has a rematch with Dino Rossi (A), from whom she may have stolen the 2004 election. 8 District, eastern King and Pierce Counties: Republican Rep. Dave Reichert (B+,A-) vs. Democrat Darcy Burner (F,NR).

West Virginia

Democratic Governor Joe Manchin (A+) is also in the running for biggest Governor win. His opponent is former State Sen. Russ Weeks (A). Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller (D,F) is solidly ahead of Republican Jay Wolfe (A,A).


House, 8th District: Northeast Wisconsin.Republican (former state-assembly speaker John Gard (A,A) vs. Democrat Steve Kagen (A,D).


In the special Senate election Republican appointee John Barrasso (A,A) seeks election in his own right against Democrat Nick Carter (B,NR). Republican Senator Michael Enzi seeks a third term (A,A), opposed by Democrat Chris Rothfuss (AQ,NR). At-large House seat: Republican Cynthia Lummis (A,A) vs. Democrat Gary Trauner (A-,NR).

Will the Second Amendment still have enough friends in Congress to defeat the anti-rights agenda that a President Obama would push? The answer may depend on how much volunteer time Second Amendment defenders devote to key congressional races in the next several days.

Dave Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute, in Golden, Colorado.


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