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!