The gun vote still matters

By Jim Irvine

In the 2000 Presidential race, a pro-gun George Bush defeated an anti-gun Al Gore. President Bill Clinton commented that the NRA cost Gore the Presidency. Gore’s insistence that law abiding citizens should be denied their God-given right to self-defense or to own good firearms for hunting, collecting or competition did not make sense to millions of Americans that understand that guns are tools used for good far more often that evil.

A few Ohio candidates seemed to have missed that important lesson. It is clear that the gun vote turned several key races, including two prominent statewide races.

For many months, Tim Grendell was the only Republican running for Ohio Attorney General (AG). But Betty Montgomery realized she could not win a three way primary for Governor with Jim Petro and Ken Blackwell, so she took all her money and filed to run for AG.

Tim Grendell was a great pro-gun candidate and has strong support from the grassroots. Montgomery is anti-concealed carry and very unpopular with the grassroots gun owners. I personally talked with Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett and Republican National Party Chairman Ken Melman about the weakness of Betty as a viable candidate. Both “knew” I was wrong and did not care what the grassroots thought. Their arrogance was disgusting, but the party machine helped Montgomery defeat the better candidate in the primary

Bennett and many in the Republican Party considered Montgomery unbeatable. She had far superior name recognition, and more than double the money of Marc Dann. Normally, that is enough for an easy victory, but not this time.

Montgomery was considered invincible, in part, because of her past vote totals. In 1994 she upset Lee Fisher for AG in a race that most considered impossible for her to win. In besting Fisher by 91,204 votes, she became a hero for the Republican Party. In 1998 she won easily, receiving 2,037,864 votes and topping the Governor’s vote total. In 2002 she received 2,010,022 votes, or 145,015 more votes that Governor Bob Taft. A downline candidate normally gets fewer votes than the top of the ticket, but she was the highest vote getter on the ballot. Looking only at the numbers, she should have crushed her opponent on November 7. But voters consider facts, and Montgomery’s stance on guns was terrible.

Enter the NRA and Buckeye Firearms Association and pro-gun Democratic candidate Marc Dann. Dann is pro-gun, and was a crucial member of the conference committee for HB12, the bill that made concealed carry legal in Ohio. Dann was clearly the better candidate for the gun owner, but he needed to reach, and convince Ohio’s gun owners that the Democrat was their only friend in the race.

Buckeye Firearms Association and the NRA worked tirelessly to help our candidate. The NRA, with its massive membership numbers, spent money to send more than 200,000 Ohio members a post card asking for a vote for Dann. Buckeye Firearms Association mailed over 500 gun stores, ranges and hunting clubs. We put our voter guide in thousands of hands and asked the grassroots to spread the word about our candidates. In the end, Marc Dann shocked Betty Montgomery and the Republican machine sending Montgomery home a loser.

How ironic that the candidate considered unbeatable by her party because many years ago she defeated a very strong incumbent was defeated by someone who had never run for statewide office. Dann defeated Betty by 177,339 votes, meaning the NRA’s 200,000 post cards played a vital role in turning this election.

But with Ted Strickland’s big win over Ken Blackwell, and the Democrats picking up four of five statewide seats and many House seats, one could think Montgomery simply fell victim to a bad year for Republicans. Until one considers Republican Mary Taylor.

In a race the Republicans did not figure to win, Mary Taylor beat Democrat Barbara Sykes for State Auditor. Mary Taylor is strong pro-gun and was endorsed by Buckeye Firearms Association. Her opponent is adamantly anti-gun and anti-self defense, voting against many pro-gun bills during her time in the Ohio House. Buckeye Firearms Association went to our grassroots network to urge support for Taylor, who in the end won by 61,736 votes. Interesting when you consider there are over 80,000 people with an Ohio concealed handgun license. Again, the gun vote was the difference.

While the gun community may not yet have the clout to run “run its own candidate” and win, it’s obvious that when a strong pro-gun candidate faces off against a strong anti-gun candidate, the gun vote will determine the winner, no matter the party, the name recognition or the money spent trying to defeat us. Gun owners are so large in numbers, that when we act together, we will win.

If the Republican Party was paying attention, they might have learned that lesson in the primary when Sandy O’Brien defeated the incumbent, and party backed Bradley who is a gun hater.

Hopefully both parties will remember the influence of the gun owner in this year’s contests. The mounting evidence continues to show that the gun vote will turn any tight race in our favor. When both parties run good candidates, all Ohio voters win. That is an important lesson as candidates begin considering to run for Ohio House in 2008, when almost one-half of the current member will be term limited and an enormous new slate of candidates will be elected.

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