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Virginia Results Show Candidates Can Defy NRA And Win

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Virginia Results Show Candidates Can Defy NRA And Win


Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.


Pro-gun-safety candidates swept Virginia’s three statewide offices in the 2017 elections, showing that it is prudent to run against the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) agenda and to make gun safety a centerpiece issue of campaigns. These candidates’ victories help debunk a myth propogated by the media that gun violence prevention is a losing issue at the polls.

Victorious candidates in Virginia elections last night included Ralph Northam, who won the governor’s seat by nearly nine points, Justin Fairfax, who won the lieutenant governor’s race (both of whom have received “F” ratings from the NRA because of their positions on gun policy), and Mark Herring, who was re-elected attorney general. In 2013, Herring made gun safety a prominent issue of his campaign, and his actions as attorney general led the NRA to label him “one of the most anti-gun lawmakers in Virginia history.”

The NRA’s endorsed candidates for these three offices all lost, despite the gun group spending heavily on political advertisements in Virginia.

According to election night exit polls, Northam and Republican candidate Ed Gillespie tied among voters whose primary issue was gun policy:

Another candidate who is often linked to gun violence prevention is Chris Hurst, who won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 2015, Hurst’s girlfriend, television news reporter Alison Parker, was fatally shot during a live broadcast. Hurst, who beat NRA-endorsed Joseph Yost, ran on a platform focused on reducing gun violence specifically for people of color and women who have escaped abusive relationships.

But the NRA media myth about gun violence prevention being a losing issue at polls still persists.

During a November 8 segment on NPR’s Morning Edition about the NRA’s influence, commentator Cokie Roberts said of the group, “I have to hand it to the NRA. They participate, they organize, they contribute, they vote. That’s the way you influence legislation. And if the other side wants to get gun control done, they can’t just tell awful stories. They have to organize and contribute in the same degree.” The results in Virginia are yet another example disproving this analysis, with the NRA failing to rally its supporters to deliver any of the three statewide officers to its preferred candidate.

Winning despite the NRA’s campaign efforts is not a new trend for Virginia’s pro-gun-safety politicians. In 2013, the NRA spent $500,000 to beat Mark Herring in his bid for attorney general. After he won, his campaign manager said that Herring pulled off the victory by running on a strong record of supporting sensible gun legislation. Similarly, the NRA efforts against Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s statewide races have also repeatedly come up short. Like Northam, McAuliffe bragged about his “F” rating from the NRA during the 2013 gubernatorial race.

The myth that gun safety is a losing issue dates back to the 1994 congressional midterm elections and the 2000 presidential election in which pundits blamed losses on candidates’ support for gun safety measures. Evidence-based research into those elections has long disproved those theories, which the NRA has nevertheless promoted in order to bolster its image.





  1. dbtheonly November 9, 2017

    17% of the voters rated gun issues as their most important issue. Those voters split evenly. This is hardly strong evidence that the hold of the NRA is broken. At best it’s evidence that the NRA gun issue can be fought to a draw.

    There have been too many high casualty high profile shootings lately. The Virginia election may be a response to those shootings rather than a long term change in voting patterns.

    Not that I paid attention, but I do not recall guns being a major issue in the Virginia election. That 17% is a combined figure, both pro and con.

    If the election was truly anti-gun does that mean the election was less anti-Trump than we’ve been lead to believe?

    1. Emily November 9, 2017

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  2. FireBaron November 9, 2017

    Sorry, Cyndey. The Democrats lost in 2000 for two reasons. Al Gore would not let the best campaigner in the Democrats’ history stump for him until the last minute, and Joe Lieberman showed he was eminently unprepared for the job by his constant self-righteous proclamations, and his failure to stand up to Dick Cheney in their one debate.

    1. dbtheonly November 9, 2017


      The Democrats lost the 2000 election for only one reason:

      SCOTUS Justices are not bound by the same code of ethics lower Judges are bound by and so two SCOTUS Justices cast Bush votes in Bush v. Gore even though their spouses were high ranking Bush Campaign leaders in their respective States.

    2. Dominick Vila November 9, 2017

      That was definitely part of it.

    3. idamag November 9, 2017

      Because Clinton allowed himself to fall into a trap, Al Gore tried to distance himself from Clinton, not realizing that Clinton was a popular president. The other reason is that Al Gore didn’t have enough personality.

  3. idamag November 9, 2017

    There are a lot of paranoid people who can be scared into buying assault rifles, but there are more sane people out there.

  4. Dapper Dan November 9, 2017

    Do you know 94 percent of Americans and around 76 percent that are NRA Members actually favor gun safety laws ? That’s a United block of Americans who want to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and of course felons. Background checks can identify who’s at risk of hurting others or themselves. Any politician labeled by the NRA with an F should wear that as a badge of honor. The alternative to gun safety laws is simply keeping them away from the general public. And no that’s not a violation of the Second Amendment since we have both law enforcement and military charged with maintaining order


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