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Republicans Get High Marks From NRA in Latest Ratings

President Donald Trump addresses the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Indianapolis in April
Tia Dufour/Tia Dufour
Tia Dufour
President Donald Trump addresses the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Indianapolis in April. (White House photo by Tia Dufour)

Virginia Republicans fared well in the National Rifle Association’s latest candidate scorecards, even as some incumbents have tried to distance themselves from the group’s hardline gun policies.

All but six GOP candidates received some variation of an “A,” although a handful had no recorded rating. Mary Margaret Kastelberg, a Republican running for a House of Delegates seat who has called for several gun control measures, was the sole Republican to get a failing grade of “D.”

Democrats, meanwhile, were overwhelmingly assigned failing grades in the scores released on Monday. The only exceptions among those rated were Sen. Lynwood Lewis and House of Delegates candidate Jim Barker, who were given a “B” and “C” respectively.

Gun policy has emerged as a top voter concern in the wake of a May mass shooting in Virginia Beach, according to a recent Washington Post poll.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam called a special session in the wake of the shooting, a move that angered Republicans who said he was politicizing the tragedy. The GOP-controlled legislature adjourned the session after 90 minutes, arguing lawmakers needed time to study the bills before they reconvened after the elections.

Suburban Republicans in tight races, including Sen. Glen Sturtevant and Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, have since run ads and made statements during the campaign suggesting they’re open to limited gun control regulations.

Sturtevant said in a recent candidate forum that he has “broken with my party” to support a version of a red-flag law. Dunnovant has run a TV ad saying she supported a federal ban on bump stocks.

But Democrats were quick to suggest that both senators’ high NRA ratings -- an “A-” for Sturtevant and “A” for Dunnovant -- proved that those efforts were insincere. Dunnovant’s opponent, Del. Debra Rodman, has run her own ad pointing out Dunnovant voted against a state ban of bump stocks. Dunnovant says only a federal ban would be effective. Either way, the ban is already in place; a Trump administration ban went into effect in March.

“Senate Republicans continuously put the NRA before their constituents and now they’re being rewarded for their support with endorsements,” said Hailey Barringer, deputy executive director for the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus.

Neither a spokesman for senate Republicans nor campaign managers for Sturtevant and Dunnovant responded to requests for comment.

But the NRA said Democrats are pledging fealty to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group started by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that has pledged $2.5 million to help Democrats like Rodman flip the legislature blue.  

“These elitists funnel money into our communities to prop-up weak candidates defined by one trait: their willingness to bow to the billionaire’s gun control agenda, even if it turns great places—like Virginia—into New York City,” said Jason Ouimet, chairman of the NRA's Political Victory Fund.

The NRA donated $200,000 to House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert’s political action committee in September in its largest donation in Virginia to date.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include remarks from the NRA, which arrived after deadline.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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