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Kay Hagan
Sen. Kay Hagan unlikely to tout her "F" from the NRA as Robin Kelly has done.
The battle in Illinois's deep-blue Second Congressional District—where Daily Kos has played an important pioneering role backing Robin Kelly in the primary election campaign there—illustrates how challenging the National Rifle Association can make a positive difference for a candidate willing to take that route. That's a big change from the very recent past.

Until the 12/14 Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school slaughter, even in the bluest districts, most Democrats had spent years—since the mid-'90s really—shying away from anything even hinting that they might favor new gun-control laws. The issue was seen as a loser and most candidates, incumbents and challengers alike, were resigned to the NRA's dominance. Across the netroots, too, the issue of gun control went all but unmentioned in the 2012 campaign.

Kelly, however, as we've been documenting since she began her campaign to replace Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., has taken the NRA head-on, pointing out her Democratic opponents' "A" rating from the gun industry's mouthpiece while touting the "F" it has given her. Those running against her have even complained she's made the contest a one-issue race. At NBC, Mark Murray writes:

In past Democratic primaries, an NRA endorsement was either a badge of honor or something that at least wasn’t viewed as a major liability. That may not be true anymore, at least in congressional districts like this one in Illinois.
Because it is a special primary election with lots of names on the ballot and expectations of the usual extremely low turnout such elections garner, she doesn't have the race yet in the bag, but Kelly's prospects look very good. If she does win, that could be a green light for other Democrats to follow the same path. There have been, after all, poll after poll since the Newtown massacre showing that Americans support more restrictions on who can buy guns and what kinds. Polls also show a drop in favorability for the NRA.

Please continue to read about elections and the NRA below the fold.

The latest Pew poll, for instance, found 83 percent favoring "background checks for private & gun show sales," 56 percent for banning "assault-style weapons," and 53 percent for banning high-capacity "ammunition clips." That is pretty much what polls around the nation have shown.

However, Murray wonders how the Kelly phenomenon will play "out of urban areas":

That could be the biggest question moving forward after Tuesday’s race. While the NRA is unpopular with Democrats and while [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg’s group have displayed their muscle, does that also hold true in places like West Virginia (where Democrats will be competing to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller) or even in Iowa (which has open Senate and House seats in 2014)? “West Virginia and Illinois will always be different,” Glaze says, noting that states like West Virginia have “more hunting, more guns, and less crime.” He adds, “That creates a different political dynamic.” Indeed, the NRA is running newspaper ads in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina—where Democratic senators are running for re-election next year—opposing the Obama administration’s gun-control proposals.
Take North Carolina's first-term Sen. Kay Hagan, for example. She has an "F" rating from the NRA. But since being elected in 2008, she has had to vote only on a single gun-related bill—to allow firearms in checked luggage on Amtrak trains. She is being quite cautious, saying in a December statement:
"We need a common-sense debate on a comprehensive approach that looks at access to guns, including laws that may have already been on the books, access to mental health care, and violent video games. In the coming months I will review any proposals with an open mind, ensuring that they will improve the safety of our communities without restricting the rights of responsible gun owners as guaranteed by the second amendment.”
Nothing in Hagan's remarks about the NRA. Just a straddle not unlike that heard from other Democrats after Newtown. North Carolinians themselves straddle the issue. They still have a favorable view of the gun lobby, according to the latest Public Policy Polling survey, 45 percent viewing the organization favorably, 42 percent unfavorably, with 14 percent unsure. On stricter gun laws in general, 54 percent to 40 percent; on an assault-weapons ban, 51 percent to 41 percent.

That would seem to give Hagan some space to vote in the coming months for more controls on guns without hurting her chances for reelection. Renee Schoof reported in January:

Thomas Mills, a Democratic political consultant in the state, said strict gun control would “fall flat” in North Carolina. A 2011 survey showed nearly half the people in the state – 42 percent – own firearms at home, and Hagan, he said, has a strong record as a Second Amendment supporter.

“I think she’s probably going to neutralize the issue,” Mills said. “There will be people who try to make it an issue, though.”

Hagan also likely would have the political freedom to vote against some of the more restrictive proposals, such as an assault weapons ban, because it doesn’t appear likely to pass, so her opposition couldn’t be tied to its defeat.

By the time the 2014 election comes around, several gun measures will most certainly have been approved or rejected by the U.S. Senate even if they haven't been voted on in the House. How Hagan fills what now is pretty much a blank slate on guns with her votes on those measures may or may not make a significant difference in how she does at the polls.

After all, the NRA spent $18 million in 2012 and its favored candidates lost in 95 percent of their contests. Still it seems unlikely that Hagan will tout her own "F" from the NRA the way Kelly has repeatedly done even though she won in 2008 despite her failing grade from the organization.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 01:47 PM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good question (10+ / 0-)

    that I've asked in my own diary today. But at least I'm planning to do what I can to help it work elsewhere. MAIG and ARS are asking for my help, and I'm giving. That'll help us fight the NRA wherever it pops up.

    “Now, I can imagine the shocking headlines you’ll print tomorrow morning: 'More guns,' you’ll claim, 'are the NRA’s answer to everything!'" -- Wayne LaPierre

    by tytalus on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 01:59:20 PM PST

  •  Ed Markey should use his F rating to beat up Lynch (13+ / 0-)

    Lynch has a C- rating and he voted against an assault weapons ban in the 90s.   I hope Markey hangs that vote around Lynch's neck along with his anti-Obamacare vote and Lynch's known anti-choice views.

    So once Robin Kelly gets in Congress, targeting Lynch as friendly to the NRA should be the next step.  I know that Markey has already enough cred in his votes to Shut Down the NRA and in Massachusetts, the NRA is underwater in approval.  Low 30s approval, high 40s disapproval.

    I agree with President Obama, our country's journey is not yet complete. We must continue the work that our forebearers at Seneca Falls started, and put the Equal Rights Amendment into our Constitution.

    by pistolSO on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:00:27 PM PST

  •  I think it depends (13+ / 0-)

    Not only is Robin Kelly's position a good fit for this district (which I grew up in, my mother lived in for 23 years before she died, and my sister lives in now, and nobody in our family ever owned guns) but Debbie Halvorson is making herself into a target with her belligerent, aggressive pro-gun attitude that seems designed to irritate the voters of the district. She's doing it all wrong.

    Hagan obviously faces a whole different electorate. If she can strike a clear position for sane gun regulations and stick with it, NRA money may not be all that effective in selling its "she's coming to take all your guns!" crap.

    In 2006, we had a Democratic candidate for governor (Ted Strickland) who was very pro-gun and had the NRA endorsement, which annoyed many Democrats, although this wasn't a front burner issue. Ted did not get all up in people's faces like Halvorson is doing, however. He was much more laid back about it — so it didn't become much of an issue with the pro-gun control side. In fact, I am really stunned that Halvorson is being such a dick about it and not looking to Ted as an example of how to finesse this position – especially since her district is far more left than the state of Ohio as a whole.

    Jon Husted is a dick.

    by anastasia p on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:03:07 PM PST

  •  Maybe (4+ / 0-)

    everyone just needs to learn the art of straight talk...

    That'll get those pesky relatives of murder victims to shut their yaps for 2 seconds while real Americans get to the business of pointing and shooting.

  •  All politics are local, this will be district by (12+ / 0-)

    district and each politician is going to have to decide what their district will support.    It's part of their role to help guide their district to a policy it can and will support.

    But the "A" rating of the NRA is going to start bearing a Scarlett Letter stigma to it that won't work in a lot of districts due to it's perception you've been bought.   Many voters will favor "C" and "D" ratings as a proof of independent thought, and districts with an "F" will be common.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:15:53 PM PST

  •  It strikes me that the smart play for (9+ / 0-)

    a politician like Hagan is to split her for universal background checks and vote against the AWB or something.  Basically, if she wholeheartedly votes for or against, then the sound bites are simple.

    But, if she votes for background checks only, when criticized for being pro-gun control, she would have a natural, and expected rejoinder...that she supports what most people support but protected other gun rights.

    It would be harder to paint her as anti-gun because even reporters in the "fair and balanced" mode would be forced to note that she voted against some aspects of gun control.

    While I would like the AWB and magazine limits passed, for me, right now, the most important thing is to get something show that the NRA can be defeated.  We can keep moving forward on gun control once we have demonstrated that the NRA is out of step with the country.

    "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

    by Empty Vessel on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:20:27 PM PST

    •  There's agreement on this at National Review (4+ / 0-)

      ...Online, which I won't link:

      North Carolina voted for Obama in 2008 but swung red in 2012 — and not just in the presidential race. In November, the Republican gubernatorial candidate won, as did nine of the 13 House candidates. John Dinan, a political-science professor at Wake Forest University, says that Hagan is likely hoping the gun-control legislation never comes up for a vote. “She’s been able to avoid taking a lot of tough votes because Senate majority [leader] Reid has been able to keep a lot of tough votes from having to be taken,” he comments. But if the legislation does “come to a vote, she’d probably want to split the difference and vote for some parts, and maybe not others.”

      One Republican involved in North Carolina politics speculates that Hagan might see a potential upside in the legislation coming up for a vote. “She may want it to come up just because it gives her a chance to show some independence from the administration after four years of voting for Obamacare, for the stimulus, and for everything else. ” However, voting against gun-control measures could hurt her with donors.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:51:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Damn (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Glen The Plumber

        I hate it when I agree with the National Review, but I gotta say I agree...particularly the 2nd paragraph.

        I guess for me it would be good thing if Hagan split her vote, because it would illuminate just how far out of whack the NRA is...namely folks would realize that the NRA even opposes universal background checks.  That can only be a good thing in the long run.

        "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

        by Empty Vessel on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:56:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Gerrymandering (0+ / 0-)

        The 2010 elections really hurt the democrats in NC.  The republicans were in control of the legislature and were able to setup the districts so that they could do very, very well in the 2012 elections.  

        The state was still very close in terms of the national election. There hasn't been a huge move to the right.

        The democrats fielded a very poor candidate in the governor's race and got stomped by a strong republican candidate.

        I think Hagan is on a path to lose because she's trying to be a Republican lite.  That will probably gain a few independent votes, but at the cost of lowering motivation in her base.

  •  Wasn't there an aphorism at one time... (4+ / 0-)

    ...something about all politics being local???

    I'm guessing the NRA understands this.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:32:24 PM PST

    •  Yep. What I keep hearing from a lot of... (8+ / 0-)

      ...people is that the polls prove this is a winning issue for people who want more gun control. But most, not all, of the polls we've seen are national in scope.

      I think that gives many who would like to see sensible new laws—definitions of "sensible" vary obviously, but bear with me—a false sense of impending victories in the matter. I see it differently.

      The suburbs of Illinois are not the same as the suburbs of North Carolina (and the suburbs are where this will be decided in most states since the urban vote and rural vote are already pretty clearly firmed up in opposite directions on gun laws).

      While I am going to keep personally supporting passage of new laws, my view is that some will pass in the Senate (except for the assault-weapons ban) and we might get universal background checks in the House. However, from now until 2015, that's all that can be reasonably expected.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:45:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  not really (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Glen The Plumber, a gilas girl

      They  backed a lot of candidates who lost, 99% of them in 2012

  •  Sadly 2014 is so far away that no one can predict (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karl Rover, 88kathy

    the mass murders that will happen between now and then. The smart money would say that there will be some pretty gross shit, but pretty gross and extraordinarily gross simply don't resonate the same way. If something ugly enough happens, all bets are off. And, if not, NRA will still be able to show its ugly face in too many places around the country.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:38:35 PM PST

  •  donating (3+ / 0-)

    I want us to give cover to candidates like Hagan who will be targeted by the NRA.  That's why I'm donating to Gabby Gifford's PAC.  I'm assuming that the people they help won't necessarily flaunt an anti-NRA position, but they will help out candidates like Hagan who are in difficult territory.

  •  The NRA.............. (6+ / 0-)

    has gotten away with bluster, bravado and bullying for years. While they have a lot of financial and to a lesser extent, member resources; they are beatable. They did rather poorly with their endorsements and support in the Senate elections in 2012.

    We in the saner gun policy camp can counter them effectively; especially through social media and on-line fund raising.  Our candidates just need to get their collective acts together with Robin Kelly as an example of what is possible.

    The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation--HDT

    by cazcee on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:56:15 PM PST

    •  yes. It's possible. As noted in the diary... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, Glen The Plumber
      ...the NRA spent $18 million in 2012 and its favored candidate lost in 95 percent of their contests.
      But that was before there were any proposals being made to restrict guns more than they already are. Passage of a couple of such laws could make the difference. We should obviously not give up the fight, but when it comes to, the assault weapons ban, for example, there already are 8 to 10 Senate Democrats who can be counted as probable opponents. None of them is vulnerable from the left.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:23:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  NRA already advertising against Hagen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, Glen The Plumber

    "In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets. " James Webb, Sep 02

    by ParaHammer on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:03:17 PM PST

  •  NC Voter Here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber, BlueEyed In NC

    I'm more interested in Kay stepping up to fight the Climate battle myself.

    I'm afraid she won't do that.

    •  It depends on how she "steps up" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, Glen The Plumber, eeff

      We need Kay Hagen for her votes over the next 8 years: the two remaining in this cycle and the ones she can make when she is re-elected. But she has to get re-elected for that to happen.

      I think her race will be difficult but doable.

      When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:37:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was wrong then. I was following the suggestion.. (3+ / 0-)

    ..put out that in order to keep the senate safe for 2014, those Dems in red states should be given a pass on gun regulation vote.
    Part of that thiking was also forcing some republicans in blue states to carry some of the weight.


    Hagan also likely would have the political freedom to vote against some of the more restrictive proposals, such as an assault weapons ban, because it doesn’t appear likely to pass, so her opposition couldn’t be tied to its defeat
    ..if various measures are proposed as a list of separate proposals each to be voted on, Dems in red states like Hagan demonstrate their strong support of 2nd amendment and vote against the unlikely to pass AWB while accepting other very important measures in a step by step building process, it gives the Dems in red states the opportunity to both bolster their 2nd amendment creds and vote for important gun safety measures as a compromise that will satisfy the gun owners (who might be snared by the NRA propaganda) puttting them at ease who might otherwise punish the Democrats.

    This is a much better idea than giving up gun safety votes in red zones altogether imo

  •  Kay Hagan is walking a tightrope, the we can untie (8+ / 0-)

    Yet only by busting ass in the next year or so.  

    Is it just me, or have you all seen the tides beginning to turn?  Yes.  NC is now a southern state, in that the elected representatives are overwhelmingly Republican.  However.  You know what?  As always, they are overreaching because they can.  On issues like lowering the max unemployment benefits from over 500 a week to closer to 300, and shortening the length of time one can draw those amazingly needed benefits.  Say this together:

    The Party of Family Values doesn't value families.  We have proof.

    Cut Kay some slack if you can.  If you can't, just realize that her ability to vote as well as she has previously, in the face of the TeaCrazyItis in our gerrymandered State has often been an act of faith, and maybe even conscience.  

    Sen. Kay Hagan will never be Sen. Whitehouse, Sen. Brown or Sen. Merkley.  Senator Kay Hagan might be the one Senator that is between a rock and a hard place that can be the catalyst to other like minded Senators from red states finding their own voice.  IF.  If we let her know we have her back.  Yet, we need to let her know soon.  

    Believe me.  I live here.  It's horrible enough now that the 'pubs have taken over the State Legislature and Governor.  

    Someone once asked me why do you always insist on taking the hard road? and I replied why do you assume I see two roads?

    by funluvn1 on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:34:58 PM PST

  •  The tipping point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber, Eric Nelson

    is near, a lot of voters will come over to gun control if our politicians show some leadership on the issue.

  •  Ask how Mike McIntyre or Walter Jones (R) (0+ / 0-)

    ...will handle it.  They don't have the baggage of being in their first term.

    Hagan seems to be a habitual straddler on everything.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:06:36 PM PST

  •  Every race is different, it's called politics. (0+ / 0-)

    You can be so right that people find you insufferable so it often a tightrope walk especially when thngs are so polarized with US.  It takes a skilled political animal to get through all this and survive to vote in the body to which they were elected.

  •  mr.uintas spent some time with his shooting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    buddies this last weekend. He started talking about the President's proposals, and got more positive than negative reactions.

    These are the guys I've worked on for years, they watched the invasion of Iraq on Fox and cheered it on, now MSNBC is their channel of choice and I've been scared we would lose them.

    They support background checks strongly. They have no problem with smaller magazines, and agree with me that the AWB will do little but if it makes people feel better, well OK. That's it, tho. The line is drawn.

    "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

    by high uintas on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:38:03 PM PST

  •  It's not the NRA rating. (4+ / 0-)

    After Newton, a number of people who had previously touted their NRA A+ ratings has been both very critical of the NRA's recent behavior, and stated that we do need more effective gun control. Had Debbie Halvorson done so, there probably would not be much talk about Robin Kelly's "F". Instead Halvorson has been an unapologetic shill for the NRA. When you've got Morning Joe talking about his A++ rating from the NRA as a lead-in for him talking about the need for more effective gun control, someone like Debbie Halvorson sticks out, and not in a favorable way.

    Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. It is by the picket line and direct action that true freedom will be won, not by electing people who promise to screw us less than the other guy.

    by rhonan on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:51:34 PM PST

  •  The NC-Sen race is going to be one of the most (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    We Won, Australian2

    difficult races of 2014.  South Dakota will be the second most difficult race.  I do think Hagan could still win but Art Pope has control of the NC state legislator and he will spend big to defeat her:

    But it's looking like the GOP will have a crowded primary which will work in her favor.

    Funny Stuff at

    by poopdogcomedy on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 09:14:20 PM PST

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