The National Rifle Association is one of America’s most powerful interest groups. See how they graded candidates in PA’s top races. No U.S. Senate endorsement (Smith A, Casey B+), and several candidates got A’s who you might not expect (Kathy Boockvar). Plus state House and Senate races.
What makes the NRA’s endorsement so highly prized? Their membership comprises many devout, single-issue voters. Each of those members will receive an orange postcard with the names of endorsed candidates, more valuable to a campaign than any other mail piece.
They’re just as willing to endorse a Democrat as a Republican, and will defer to endorsing an incumbent if both candidates in a race have decent ratings.
The grades work as letter grades in school. “AQ” means that a candidate with no voting record said all the right things in his or her questionnaire, but doesn’t have any voting record one way or the other. “A+” means the candidate not only votes with the NRA, but proactively sponsors pro-gun legislation. “?” means the NRA did not receive a candidate’s questionnaire.
You can see the full list here. We’ve picked out the most interesting ones.
Tom Smith (R): A
Sen. Bob Casey (D): B+
Casey finds electoral success as a self-described pro-life, pro-gun Democrat. His NRA rating is solid, though half a grade shy of being fodder for campaign literature. “Bob Casey has a record of supporting the Second Amendment and the interests of Pennsylvania sportsmen,” said Campaign Manager Larry Smar.
“On the federal issues we track, Casey has followed in lock step with the NRA,” said Max Nacheman of CeasefirePA, a group that advocates stronger gun laws and is often at odds with the NRA.
How then, did he fall shy of an “A,” his grade in his 2006 campaign? It looks like his votes to confirm Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, both of which were graded by the NRA, were enough to knock him down.
The winner is Smith who, despite having no no voting record, avoided the “AQ” and got an “A”. It’s probably because he is a lifetime NRA member and has contributed thousands of dollars to his local chapter over the years. PoliticsPA is seeking to confirm that with the NRA.
Smith spokeswoman Megan Piwowar pounced on the rating.
“Senator Casey’s NRA downgrade not only demonstrates his weakness on issues important to Pennsylvania sportsmen, but is further evidence of a crumbling myth – Bob Casey is not independent, but rather a rubber stamp for the far left leaders of his party,” she said. “In stark contrast, citizen candidate Tom Smith received a higher grade because of his lifelong commitment to protecting our second amendment rights.”
Top Congressional Races
Endorsement: Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R): A
Kathy Boockvar (D): AQ
Boockvar, who is not shy about her liberal leanings, didn’t get the NRA’s backing. But she did get a nice talking point for campaign literature. Expect to hear about here “A” rating the next time Republicans seek to cast Boockvar as radical.
Endorsement: Rep. Mark Critz (D): A+
Keith Rothfus (R): AQ
Check out PoliticsPA’s story on how this significant endorsement impacts the 12th district race.
Endorsement: Rep. Tim Murphy (R): A
Larry Maggi (D): AQ
This is another case of a southwest Pa. Dem who knows the NRA unlocks a lot of potential support. Maggi owns several guns and is very conversant on the subject, but it’s hard to get to the right of Murphy on the issue.
Endorsement: Rep. Jim Gerlach (R): A
Manan Trivedi (D): ?
Endorsement: Rep. Pat Meehan (R): A
George Badey (D): ?
Endorsement: Dave Freed (R): AQ
Kathleen Kane (D): ?
And here are the NRA’s endorsements in the top state House and Senate races.
State Senate Races
Endorsement: John McNally (R): AQ
Rob Teplitz (D): ?
Endorsement: Sen. Dave Argall (R): A
Tim Seip (D): A
Raja (R): AQ
Matt Smith (D): B
Endorsement: Sen. Elder Vogel (R): A
Kim Villella (D): AQ
Endorsement: Janet Anderson (R): AQ
Sean Wiley (D): ?
State House Races
Ryan Bizzaro (D): AQ
Jason Owen (R): AQ
Endorsement: Rep. Rob Matzie (D): A
Kathy Coder (R): AQ
Endorsement: Rep. Joe Markosek (D): A
Mike Doyle (R): AQ
Anne Chapman (R): AQ
Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D): C
Endorsement: Rep. Rick Saccone (R): A+
David Levdansky (D): F
Endorsement: Rep. Bryan Barbin (D): A
Sherry Stalley (R): AQ
Mark McCracken (D): AQ
Tom Sankey (R): AQ
Endorsement: Rep. Rick Mirabito (D): A-
Harry Rogers (R): AQ
Endorsement: Rep. Justin Simmons (R): A-
Kevin Deely (D): ?
Endorsement: Rep. Dan Truitt (R): B+
Bret Binder (D): ?
Rep. Warren Kampf (R): B
Paul Drucker (D): D
Rep. John Taylor (R): C
William Dunbar (D): ?