IL-02 Special Election And The Gun Question
Last October no one thought California state Senator Gloria McLeod had much of a chance to defeat incumbent Blue Dog Congressman Joe Baca in the new CA-35. Baca raised over a million dollars and McLeod had only raised $302,550. But on election day McLeod wound up with 72,562 votes (56%) to Baca's 57,304 (44%). What happened? The big anti-NRA PAC, Independence USA, funded, in part by Mayor Bloomberg, dumped independent expenditures into the district to the tune of $3,296,583 (almost all of it in the last week) and that was the end of one of the NRA's most enthusiastic Blue Dogs. But McLeod wasn't exactly an NRA enemy either. She was a recent-- and sincere-- convert to an anti-NRA position and before the election they had given her a B- rating. They were happy that she had voted against AB-352 here in California, which called for microstamping bullets fired from semi-automatic guns. Had McLeod and one other Assemblymember voted for it, it would have passed. The NRA was happy with her; now it rates her a C... and Joe Baca, of course, was a solid A.
Mayor Bloomberg's group-- which is responsible for the ad above attacking self-described conservative and former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson-- backed McLeod because they wanted to get rid of Baca. I can only assume they also believed in the sincerity of McLeod's conversion away from previous support for NRA positions. Debbie Halvorson has stuck to her position opposing President Obama's proposal to ban assault weapons, which is why the NRA is so desperate to see her elected two weeks from today.
I hope you've already seen the video and read the guest post Illinois state Senator Toi Hutchinson did for us a month ago about why she had decided to sponsor legislation in Springfield that bans assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Right now she's a critical part of the effort to ban these weapons in her state. She’s co-sponsoring the legislation and negotiating with more conservative downstate members of the Democratic caucus here. Because of her previous A- from the NRA she has real credibility with these folks that long-time gun opponents do not have. If the goal is to elect someone who will pass this legislation, then it’s probably best not to attempt to torpedo the candidacy of the person who is going to be instrumental in winning crucial conservative votes in favor of the reforms.
Yesterday I asked Toi to clarify her position of guns, since there is so much distortion of her record going around by people who have never spoken to her. Here's what she told me:
I have moderated my views on gun safety reform over the past few years, but even before that I have never cast a vote to allow assault weapons on our streets or to prevent reporting of stolen weapons. I was profoundly appalled that in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, the NRA came out and said that the solution to gun violence was to allow more guns in schools. This approach is self-evidently wrong and demonstrates that the NRA is deeply out of touch even with its own membership. It is an organization more dedicated to ideology than practical solutions to the problems we face. While we need a comprehensive solution to the violence that plagues our communities, a key first step is to reform and limit easy access to dangerous guns. That’s why I’m a co-sponsor on legislation to outlaw assault weapons in Illinois, ban high-capacity clips and require that legal gun owners report any lost, stolen or transferred guns.If you see an e-mail from a group calling her an NRA-backed candidate, they have that wrong. She's not an NRA-backed candidate. Debbie Halvorson is. The NRA wants very much to defeat Toi Hutchinson and elect Debbie Halvorson. The only one way to do that-- which we've been talking about since the beginning of the year-- is for the African-American and progressive vote to splinter. That looks like it could well happen now since several other sincere progressive groups have decided to back another decent candidate. It's precisely what I hoped wouldn't happen when we jumped in and tried helping Toi early on. Hopefully, the voters in the Southland will figure out which candidate will be best for them and turn out and vote. If you'd like to help Toi beat Halvorson, you can do that here.
There's a great deal of misinformation circulating about Toi being an NRA candidate-- that's flat out false; the NRA is working to defeat her because she's sponsoring the ban on assault weapons-- and being in favor of school vouchers-- also patently false and twisted-- and even a puppy killer... a puppy killer... the woman who pushed through the legislation to ban puppy mills in Illinois? Nice one! I can understand someone wanting to help another candidate win, but twisting bits and pieces of information to smear a progressive for that win isn't a good long-term strategy.