Home 2013 races Dems Fighting Over Guns…In 2009 and 2013

Dems Fighting Over Guns…In 2009 and 2013


As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And in the case of Virginia Democratic, statewide primary candidates fighting over guns, the saying certainly applies. Thus: Four years ago, almost to the day, we had Moran Hits Deeds Hard on Guns, Moran Calls Deeds’ Gun Views “Very Extreme” and McAuliffe Goes Off On Deeds and Guns. Ah, the good ol’ days. 🙂

And today? Well, I just received not one but TWO mailers from the Aneesh Chopra for LG campaign, calling out Ralph Northam for gun votes he’s taken. See here and here for one of those mailers. I also received an email this morning from “Mathews County School Board Member, Member of the Democratic Party of Virginia First Congressional District Committee, former Mathews County Democratic Committee chairman, Democratic activist, and small business owner, Jen Little,” announcing “today that she is pulling her endorsement of Aneesh Chopra for lieutenant governor due to direct mail pieces distributed by the Chopra campaign that depict Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) as a supporter of the NRA, thus a supporter of gun violence.”

My view on all this? Three points. First, primaries are about choices, and it is totally legitimate – I’d actually argue that it should be the core of any campaign – to inform voters both of your positions, as well as how they differ from one’s opponent’s votes on important issues. Second, in doing so, I believe those “compare and contrast” ads need to be accurate. In the case of Chopra’s ads, you can check Northam’s 2012 votes on SB4 (“Castle Doctrine”), HB22 (gun buy-back programs), and SB67 (concealed handgun permits/fingerprinting requirements) for yourself. My main issue with Chopra’s ad is that the “Castle Doctrine” is not the same thing as “Stand Your Ground” laws (although one could argue that they are related), and I personally wouldn’t have brought up the Trayvon Martin case in this context. Other than that, though, I see no problem with pointing out someone’s actual votes on the issues (or, in Northam’s case, if he wants to point out something from Chopra’s record when he worked for the Kaine and/or Obama administrations). Finally, I believe that the chips will fall where they may in this exchange; ergo, if Democratic primary voters don’t agree with Sen. Northam’s votes, they will probably be less likely to vote for him. On the other hand, if Democratic primary voters mostly agree with Northam’s votes (or feel that Northam’s views on guns have shifted more to their liking in recent months), or if they don’t feel strongly about the votes, or if they believe that Chopra’s campaign has been too “negative” or whatever, it could backfire on Chopra and actually help Northam (and note that the Northam folks have been responding vigorously, using surrogates like Sen. Barbara Favola and also their own email list, so they clearly see this as a threat).

In the end, I have no idea how this will play out, but I guess we’ll find out in two weeks. Stay tuned!

  • kindler

    And what could be more legitimate than emphasizing policy differences where they exist?

    This contest has been quite tame so far, but I’m guessing that the Chopra campaign got spooked by the WaPo endorsement of Northam (shades of Creigh!) and felt the need to start making distinctions in order to shore up NoVa support.

  • jwsevert

    A very smart guy, who’s been helping elect Democrats in Virginia for more than 25 years, told me months ago that the first candidate to go negative in this race loses.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    This race is a tossup. A northern Virginia young Turk running against an establishment Democrat from eastern Virginia. I do feel that Chopra made a mistake going negative against Northam. Frankly, the gun issue will resonate with some, but not enough to powerfully influence the race. This will be decided by who turns out in a low-turnout primary in June. Chopra has the advantage of knowing how to use new media. Notham has the advantage of appealing to many Dems who vote in these low-turnout elections.

  • Bludog

    I have mainly been out of the LG race, with friends on both sides and pretty much undecided.  The Chopra mailer decided it for me, and I’m going with Northam.  I agree with the article that a legislative record is fair game, but the reference to Tavon Martin was not only a cheap shot, it was false – a lie.  The article sort of brushes that off, but to me it was a big deal.

    The bill had something to do with force against a trespasser on one’s own property, and that circumstance has ZERO relevance to the Tavon Martin matter.

    I reacted to that right away, and now I think that the shot underscores that Chopra has no elective experience at all, and apparently a lack of judgment in allowing his campaign people to do this.  He may be a bright and energetic guy, so maybe his time will come but not now.  

  • libra

    what the flap is all about.

    I have never had any communications from Chopra — I’m in the south-west, so I (and my primaries vote) don’t count — but I’ve been getting regular messages, both e-mail and s-mail, from Northam. The latest (e-mail) was a mad-as-a-hornet self-defense (and a fundraising issue) against “my opponent”, for “breaking the pledge to run a positive campaign”.

    Unfortunately, in the “best” political tradition (don’t give the SOB oxygen), he neither mentions the name of “my opponent”, nor specifies what constituted the break of the pledge, so I’m really glad to have all my guesses confirmed.

    Here’s Northam’s e-mail, subject title “The Truth”, in full (except for my name, which I have removed):

    My opponent has decided to distort my record instead of focusing on a positive campaign to move Virginia forward.

    Here is the truth:

    I have run against NRA-endorsed Republicans and received a ‘D’ rating from the NRA in 2011 when I was running for reelection.

    I voted to keep guns out of bars, to maintain one-gun-per-month laws, and to close the gun show loophole.

    I was the first candidate for Lieutenant Governor this cycle to publicly support an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and smaller clips.

    In March, at a Democratic candidate forum in Hampton, my opponent and I pledged to keep a positive campaign. My opponent has now broken that pledge.

    Last month, I joined several Virginia Tech parents to circulate a petition calling for a comprehensive solution to prevent gun violence. You can watch me discuss my position here.

    Now is not the time to attack fellow Democrats and distort records. We need to be united for the general election to take on the extreme Republican ticket. Such distortions hurt the party in the general election.

    I have the support of the Washington Post, the Virginia Education Association, Senate Leader Dick Saslaw, Senator Barbara Favola, and former Senator Mary Margaret Whipple. They believe in me because of my steadfast support for an assault weapons ban.

    I need your help to push back against these misleading distortions Please contribute $25 today.

    Thank you again for your continued support,

    Ralph Northam | Democrat for Lt. Governor