Second Amendment Cheat Sheet II

More competitive races for pro-gun Americans to watch.

By Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute 

11/04/00 10:05 a.m., National Review Online

Here's another set of key, close races involving Second Amendment rights. Coupled with my Friday column, it's a handy guide to every major congressional race where there's a big difference between the candidates on guns, and where both sides have a realistic chance of winning. As for closely watched races where there's no difference — such as anti-gun Rep. Brian Bilbray's (R., San Diego) tough race against an equally anti-gun challenger, I'll leave them to other writers.

The grades discussed in this column are the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund candidate ratings, which are available online, as are ratings from Gun Owners of America; the latter group is much more parsimonious with good grades, and also rates third party candidates. The NRA website includes state-legislature candidate ratings, too.

Pundits rate all the races discussed below as close, so turnout and final-days volunteers may make all the difference.

The old media are consumed with hope that Republican Jim Rogan (C-rated) will lose his Pasadena seat (the 27th congressional district) to Adam Schiff (F) as punishment for Rogan's having served as a manager of the impeachment of one the greatest presidents in history.

But the media are missing the stiff challenge faced by five-term Democrat Cal Dooley (F) in the 20th congressional district (Fresno and Central Valley), where Dooley's constant anti-gun voting record puts him out of step with his district. Republican Rich Rodriguez came within five points of Dooley in the open primary.

Democrat Lois Capps (F) is just as extreme on guns as Dooley, but is closer to the political center of her Santa Barbara 22d congressional district. Even so, she is only marginally ahead against Republican Mike Stoker (A).

On gun issues, this state's congressional delegation is way out of line with a state that is one of the centers of the firearms business, and one of the first to allow law-abiding adults to carry handguns in public for lawful protection. Besides the 2nd district Gejdenson/Simmons race, discussed in my previous column, Second Amendment advocates have a very real possibility of picking up the 5th district (central Connecticut, Waterbury, and Danbury). Scandal-plagued incumbent Democrat Jim Maloney (F) beat Mark Nielson by only 2 percent in 1998; notwithstanding the Gore landslide expected in Connecticut, this race will be very close again.

Jacksonville (3rd district) Democrat Corrine Brown (F) was weakened in 1998 by a long series of personal scandals, but survived when her opponent's own scandals surfaced. Brown, a mediocre campaigner, is up against another black woman, Republican Jennifer Carroll (A), whom MSNBC calls "a stellar candidate."

The retirement of Charles Canady, Congress's leading opponent of quotas, leaves an open seat in the 12th district (Central Florida, Lakeland). Republican state representative Adam Putnam (A) faces auto-dealer Democrat Mike Stedem (F).

Republican Bob Barr (North Georgia, 7th district) is not just the most energetic and effective pro-gun congressman, fully deserving his A+ ranking from the NRA. He is a national treasure on civil liberties — leading the successful fight for forfeiture reform in the last Congress, and constantly standing guard against measures to expand warrantless searches or wiretapping. Primarily because Barr was a House impeachment manager and his opponent Roger Kahn (C-) is well funded, the race remains too close for comfort.

South Bend Democrat Tim Roemer (F) consistently runs well ahead of the rest of the Democratic ticket. Even so, Republican Chris Chocola (A) remains within upset range.

Evansville's congressional district is known as the "Bloody 8th" for its history of hard-fought, extremely close races. Republican John Hostettler gets an A from the NRA, while Democratic challenger Paul Perry, a physician, rates a B. But the letter grades understate the importance of this race for the Second Amendment. This summer, Hostettler was the leader in Congress for a series of amendments aimed at undoing the damage of the Clinton/Gore/Cuomo blackmail "agreement" with Smith & Wesson. Hostettler succeeded at preventing federal agencies from giving preferential treatment to Smith & Wesson, but narrowly missed getting enough votes to defund the Department of Housing and Urban Development's implementation of the "agreement."

Democrat Dennis Moore (F) beat a staunchly pro-gun incumbent in 1998, taking over a Republican-leaning district which includes Kansas City, Kansas, and its suburbs. Republican Phill Kline (A) has a realistic chance to win this seat.

Democrat Bruce Vento represented the 4th district, in St. Paul, until his death. Democrat Betty McCollum (F) starts with a large registration advantage, but Gov. Jesse Ventura is backing independent Tom Foley. This creates a potential opening for Republican state senator Linda Runbeck (A), a true conservative, who wants a major federal tax cut, and opposes federal intervention in health care and education.

The Senate seat of retiring Democrat Bob Kerrey (claimed to be pro-gun when first running, then reliably voted anti-gun) is a sure pickup for Second Amendment rights. Republican Attorney General Don Stenberg and Democrat Governor Ben Nelson are both A-rated.

In the third district, representing the western part of the state, former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne is expected to easily defeat his Democratic opponent Rollie Reynolds, although Osborne has only a B rating, and Reynolds an A.

Democratic senator Harry Reid's retirement offers another good chance for a pro-gun gain in the Senate, with Republican John Ensign (A) currently leading Democrat Ed Bernstein (F).

One might expect that the congressperson from Las Vegas would be tolerant of different lifestyles, but Democrat incumbent Shelley Berkeley rates an F from the NRA PVF, based on her unremitting hostility to gun owners, and she has been rewarded with television commercials on her behalf from Handgun Control, Inc. She is challenged by state senator John Porter (A).

New Hampshire
Republican Charles Bass (A) represents the second district, consisting of western and northern New Hampshire. He always faced strong opposition, this time from school-board member Barney Brannen (A), who has outpaced Bass in fundraising.

New Mexico
The Albuquerque first congressional district belongs to Republican Rhodes Scholar Heather Wilson (A). Her opponent is Democrat John Kelly (F), a former U.S. attorney and F.O.B., who became friends with Bill at Georgetown. The district has a Democratic registration advantage.

Democrat David Wu (F) is the incumbent in the 1st congressional district, which includes much of Portland. Challenger Charles Starr (A) lags in fundraising, but remains within range of an upset.

Oregon will also have a vote on a ballot initiative sponsored by state senator Ginny Burdick, a favorite of the state's gun-prohibition lobby. The initiative mimics the national gun-prohibition strategy by claiming to be a law about "gun shows," but instead imposes gun-registration requirements on firearms transactions that have nothing to do with gun shows.

Dallas Republican Pete Sessions (A+) has a strong challenge from Democrat Regina Coggins (did not return NRA questionnaire).

Besides the Allen (A) vs. Robb (F) race for the U.S. Senate, Virginians will also vote on adding a right to hunt and fish to the state constitution.

The 8th district, is represented by Democrat Jim Moran (F) whose race against Demaris Miller (A) may be closer than expected, due to the Washington Post's Oct. 31 story that Moran received a loan from a drug lobbyist.

The first congressional district, covering north Seattle and the Puget Sound, changed parties three times in the 1990s. Incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee (F) is running against Republican Dan McDonald (B+).  

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