The National Rifle Association released its complete list of Iowa endorsements late last week. Though the announcement didn’t receive as much media coverage as the group’s backing for Democratic Governor Chet Culver, announced a few days earlier, I found some of the choices interesting. Like the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the NRA has a policy of endorsing incumbents who have supported the group’s agenda, regardless of party. (In contrast, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation endorsed almost exclusively Republicans this year, passing over many Democrats in the state legislature who have supported that group’s agenda.)
The NRA Iowa endorsements and candidate ratings candidates are here. Some highlights are after the jump.
The NRA endorsed every Republican candidate for statewide office in Iowa with the exception of gubernatorial nominee Terry Branstad (who like Culver received an “A” grade). I understand why the group is backing Brenna Findley against Attorney General Tom Miller, who received an “F” on NRA issues. I can’t see why the NRA would take a position on offices that appear to have no relation to gun rights: state auditor, state treasurer, secretary of state, and secretary of agriculture. Perhaps they were trying to pacify conservative members angry about the NRA’s choice in the governor’s race.
In the Congressional races, the NRA endorsed Republican incumbents Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) as well as Senator Chuck Grassley. Republican challengers Ben Lange (IA-01) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) also got the NRA’s backing. Both candidates answered the NRA’s questionnaire, while incumbents Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack received “D” and “F” grades.
The NRA endorsed Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell in the third district. Perhaps the group is expecting some backlash from members, because in this race alone the NRA’s site includes not only the endorsed candidate’s grade (Boswell gets an “A”), but also a link explaining “why we endorse this candidate.” A pop-up shows a list of bills Boswell cosponsored and voted for, as well as “friend of the court” briefs he signed and a pro-gun letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The NRA endorsed candidates in 15 of the 25 Iowa Senate races on the ballot this year. Those include several districts where incumbents are uncontested. In the competitive races, the NRA backed Republican Rick Bertrand in the open Senate district 1. Democratic candidate Rick Mullin did not answer the group’s questionnaire. Similarly, the NRA endorsed Republican Roby Smith in the open Senate district 41, where Democrat Rich Clewell did not answer the questionnaire.
The NRA endorsed eight Iowa Senate Democratic incumbents, including Becky Schmitz in Senate district 45, one of the GOP’s top targets. Dennis Black in district 21, Daryl Beall in district 25 and Keith Kreiman in district 47 all got the NRA endorsement, even though Republican challengers are waging active campaigns in their districts.
The only Republican challenger the NRA endorsed over a Democratic Senate incumbent was Kent Sorenson in distict 37. State Senator Staci Appel voted for the “shall issue” gun permit bill during the 2010 session but received a “C” grade overall from the NRA. Her campaign literature and television commercials have cast Sorenson’s position on gun rights in an unflattering light.
I was surprised to see that the NRA didn’t endorse a candidate in Senate districts 5 or 9. Democratic incumbent Rich Olive won narrowly in 2006 and only received a “C+” grade from the NRA. Maybe his opponent Rob Bacon didn’t give the “correct” answers on his questionnaire, or maybe the NRA got the vibe that Iowa Republicans have written off Senate district 5. Senate district 9 remains one of the GOP’s top targets, though. I wonder why the NRA didn’t back Bill Dix, who got an “A,” over Democratic incumbent Bill Heckroth, who got a “B.”
In the Iowa House races, the NRA endorsed quite a few incumbent Democrats who face active and/or well-funded challengers: McKinley Bailey (district 9), John Beard (district 16), Andrew Wenthe (district 18), Bob Kressig (district 19), Doris Kelley (district 20), Ray Zirkelbach (district 31), Geri Huser (district 42), Mark Smith (district 43), Eric Palmer (district 75), Nathan Reichert (district 80), Phyllis Thede (district 81), Larry Marek (district 89), Curt Hanson (district 90), and Mike Reasoner (district 95).
The NRA backed mostly Republicans in Iowa House races for open seats (districts 1, 2, 8, 14, 41, 51, 54, 74, 84, and 99) but did not endorse either candidate in the open districts 7, 21 or 26. I got a kick out of the NRA backing Dan Dirkx, the least-informed candidate I’ve ever heard of, in the open House district 51 race. That’s single-issue advocacy for you.
Three Republicans challenging House incumbents received the NRA’s backing as well: Dan Rasmussen (district 23), Shawn Graham (district 29), and Chip Baltimore (district 48). The Democratic incumbents in those districts received “C” grades or worse. I noticed that the NRA didn’t bother to endorse a candidate in some solidly Democratic districts where the incumbent received similarly low marks (districts 25, 27, 28, 45, 49, 61, 64, 86, 93).