Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Kilgore promotes friendliness toward gun owners
The GOP candidate had an NRA official standing by at his "Sportsmen for Kilgore" announcement.
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From The Roanoke Times
Jerry Kilgore fired no weapons on Tuesday while promoting himself as a champion of gun owners' rights.
Instead, the unarmed Republican nominee for governor surrounded himself with GOP lawmakers and a National Rifle Association official to announce the formation of a "Sportsmen for Kilgore" committee that will handle that task for him.
"Protecting the Second Amendment is not just some issue I stumbled upon in an election year," Kilgore, a Scott County native, told a small crowd of supporters at Box Tree Lodge in Vinton. "It's how I was raised and it's who I am."
Kilgore, the former attorney general, considers gun rights a defining issue in his election battle with Democrat Tim Kaine, the lieutenant governor. Kaine unveiled his own sportsmen's committee with a flourish last week in Franklin County, blasting clay pigeons with a 12-gauge shotgun. Kilgore said his rival's skeet-shooting exhibition can't improve his record on gun rights.
Kilgore not only contrasted his "A" rating from the influential NRA with Kaine's "F" rating. He also had Chuck Cunningham, the NRA's director of federal affairs, at his side to reinforce the message. Cunningham called Kilgore "an unfailing and untiring friend to Virginia's gun owners and sportsmen."
Cunningham's appearance underscored a difference between this campaign and the 2001 election won by Democrat Mark Warner. Warner aggressively courted the support of gun owners and met privately with NRA officials at the organization's Fairfax headquarters. The NRA remained quiet for most of the campaign before issuing a late October letter that called Republican Mark Earley "a better candidate." Warner's ability to neutralize the NRA was widely credited for the Democrat's success in rural areas.
Kilgore aides said the sportsmen committee has more than 600 members, including Sherry Crumley of Buchanan, who headed Warner's sportsmen committee in 2001 and is part of a similar organization for Democratic attorney general candidate Creigh Deeds. The Kilgore organization also includes NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler of Emporia, House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith of Salem and several Republican legislators.
Griffith launched familiar attacks on Kaine, pointing to Kaine's support for Richmond activists who participated in the 2000 Million Mom March for gun control in Washington, D.C. Kaine, then Richmond's mayor, authorized public funds to bus marchers to the event, but later reimbursed the city.
Kaine has said that he acted out of sympathy for families of violent crime victims. But Griffith, the House majority leader, cut Kaine no slack.
"His first instinct was that guns are such a scourge that we ought to spend taxpayers' dollars to support this movement to take away your gun rights," said Griffith.
Kilgore criticized Kaine for joining Richmond's city council in 1999 in seeking a report on the feasibility of suing gun manufacturers, an idea that Kaine said he ultimately opposed.
Kaine campaign spokeswoman Delacey Skinner likened the attacks to those that Republicans used four years ago against Warner and Kaine.
"The bottom line is that Tim Kaine supports the Second Amendment and he's not going to propose any new anti-gun laws," Skinner said. "No amount of shrieking by the Kilgore campaign will change that."
Former Roanoke Mayor Ralph Smith and Republican Dels. William Fralin of Roanoke and Allen Dudley of Rocky Mount also attended the Kilgore event. Dudley picked up a gun-related endorsement in his re-election race Tuesday, getting the backing of the Virginia Commonwealth Sportsmen's Alliance.