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NRA Funding, Gun Control And TV Campaign Ads: Political Analysis | September 6, 2019

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Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE's Phil Liles for this week's political analysis. Topics include NRA funding, gun control, and TV campaign ads.

PL:  From VPM News in Richmond, I'm Phil Liles.  Craig Carper is away, but joining me now in the studio is Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro to discuss the week in Virginia politics, and good morning to you, Jeff.

JS:  Hi there, Phil.

              PL:  Well, let's begin by starting out with the political shootout over all this gun money.  The NRA gave $200,000 to Todd Gilbert, the House Republican Majority Leader, and it's also money that he can funnel to other candidates through his PAC.

JS:  Yes, and wiping clean the fingerprints of the NRA.  Now Todd Gilbert, who is one of the more influential Republican leaders in the legislature isn't the only one to receive, likely to receive dollars from the NRA.  The NRA, which of course has its share of difficulties - this internal debate over its direction and management and an investigation by the New York attorney general over possible fundraising improprieties - it is focusing sharply on the state in which it is based, Virginia.  This legislative election is a real test of the NRA’s influence in Virginia, in particular to preserve this friendly program environment.  It's not a contribution for which Todd Gilbert is apologizing, and he notes correctly that the anti-gun forces are going to be similarly generous, if not more so.  And 24 hours after the NRA contribution was posted, Everytown, the Mike Bloomberg started anti-gun PAC, announced endorsements of 25 Democrats, most of these legislative candidates, and a $438,000 investment in their candidacies.  And that's only part of the $2.5 million that the Bloomberg group intends to invest in Virginia in hopes of tipping the legislature blue.

PL:  And I was thinking about Ben Paviour had done a report yesterday afternoon, and I played it this morning, but it seems like it's fourth on the list as far as campaigning with folks in the community as far as gun licensing.  And I would think that would be number one after all the recent, you know, attacks that have happened in Ohio and El Paso, as well as Virginia Beach.

JS:  Those, those continuing incidents of mass gun violence really elevated firearms control as an issue in this legislative election.  Though it, it also spotlights some very big cultural differences in Virginia, that in the cities and the suburbs there's a real appetite for more gun control, in the countryside, less so.  And of course the way the legislative map is drawn, the Republicans retained control, and that in a large part depends on the continued support of the pro-gun voter.

PL:  And of course the competition is starting to, to begin with televised campaign ads and some very, very competitive races.

JS:  There are two in the Richmond area in which there are candidates now on the air, both Democratic Senate candidates, Debra Rodman who's running against Siobhan Dunnavant in Henrico is up with an ad.  And it includes Rodman and her signature glasses, you know, doing this kind of a Sally Jesse Raphael thing.  Ghazala Hashmi has an introductory ad, and she talks about growing up as an Asian and Indian in the American south, having an unfamiliar name, being a person of color.  She’s running against Glen Sturtevant, and Sturtevant who has been advertising online, not on television yet, he's going after Democratic votes in part by injecting a somewhat racially-tinged theme.  He started out as a former School Board member and is now saying he will fight an effort within the Richmond schools to possibly fold two high-performing mostly white schools into presumably lower performing, mostly black schools.  He's clearly trying to peel away Democratic votes from Hashmi, in particular the votes of center-left parents who, you know, worry about the, the schools that their kids would attend.  By the way, one other ad we need to mention, Kirk Cox, the Republican Speaker who is running in that redrawn district, his opponent, Sheila Bynum-Coleman is up with her first ad depicting Cox's captive to money interests.  There is a glaring flaw, a glaring error in that ad.  It says that Cox voted against pay raises for teachers.  It turns out that she mistook John Cox for Kirk Cox, John Cox, a former delegate from Hanover county and as conservative as they come.

PL:  And President Trump is steering money for military projects, including for those in Hampton Roads worth $77 million to his disputed border wall, and Virginia's Democratic congressmen are ticked off about it.

JS:  Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, the Democratic senators, as well as the congressman from Hampton Roads are steamed that these dollars are going to be steered from these projects to this controversial wall.  Obviously the president thinking about next year, and this is part of a, of a larger effort by the president. He's harvesting about $3.6 billion now intended for military projects, all part of an $8 billion investment in his wall.

PL:  And I thank you, Jeff.  That's all the time we have for today.  Craig Carper will be back next Friday. This is VPM News.

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