Thanks to national columnist, misleading campaign postcard still reverberates
By Chad D. Baus
Last summer, voters in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District who make their decisions based on gun rights were given two good choices - former State Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) faced off against Iraq War vet Paul Hackett (D), in a special election to fill a seat vacated when President Bush appointed then-Congressman Rob Portman as U.S. Trade Representative.
The National Rifle Association decided it saw enough of a difference between the candidates and endorsed Schmidt, who eventually won 52%-48%, a margin of victory less than typical for Republicans in the district. The results of this special election continue to reverberate, from political blogs debating Democrats' chances of regaining state and federal legislative majorities in 2006 to the halls of Congress and debate on the war in Iraq.
But in the effort to read the tea leaves about why this race was closer than some expected, a misunderstanding about Schmidt’s record on support for gun rights has begun to creep into the national lexicon, and it deserves to be addressed.
On November 26, 2005, conservative columnist Robert Novak, famous of late for a 2003 column which sparked the Valerie Plame-CIA agent controversy, made the following claim:
- Schmidt nearly lost the special election because of lukewarm support from conservatives, who disliked her voting record in the Ohio legislature on gun control issues.
Indeed, Novak could be correct that there was concern among conservatives over her record on gun rights, which indeed could also explain why Hackett was able to draw as close as he did to Schmidt in this conservative district. But up until a recent Buckeye Firearms Association investigation, the source for voters’ misperception on this issue was somewhat of a mystery.
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At the time of the August election, Rep. Schmidt was a two-time Buckeye Firearms Association endorsee. She carried an “A” grade from the National Rifle Association, and had received the NRA’s endorsement in her campaign against Paul Hackett. As a Congresswoman, Schmidt recently made national headlines when she took a CCW class offered by Buckeye Firearms Association Region Leader Collin Rink and obtained her concealed carry license, and has also earned this political action committee’s endorsement for re-election to Congress next year.
So where did Robert Novak (and according to him quite a few 2nd Congressional District voters) get the idea that she supports gun control? For insight, consider remarks Novak made back on September 11, 2005. In his column, which was published in the Chicago Sun-Times and syndicated across the nation, Novak cited a campaign postcard sent out by the Hackett for Congress campaign.
- In a summer mailing to voters in the conservative constituency, Hackett identified himself as a Marine veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and National Rifle Association member. The card says: ''The first week I was home from Iraq I got my conceal and carry permit.''
The card assailed the record in the Ohio legislature of his Republican opponent, Jean Schmidt, for voting against a concealed handguns bill in 2003 and against a concealed weapons bill in 2004.
Buckeye Firearms Association has obtained a copy of the aforementioned postcard, which can be viewed by clicking here (.pdf file).
In the postcard, two “no” votes cast by then-state Representative Schmidt are cited.
Although the campaign card represents these two votes as the totality of “Jean Schmidt’s Second Amendment Record In Columbus”, nothing could be further from the truth. These votes were both procedural votes that helped rescue this concealed carry bill from attempts by Gov. Bob Taft and his allies in the Senate to insert poison pills and derail this important legislation.
It is unfortunate that this postcard was ever sent, and it is even more unfortunate that a man of Robert Novak’s stature would be continuing to repeat this misleading information.
Please write Robert Novak and ask him to use a future column to help the nation know the truth about Congresswoman Jean Schmidt’s strong support for our Second Amendment rights.