Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The NRA And Two GOP Governor Scotts-- One In Florida And One in Vermont


Vermont's PVI is D+15 and Hillary beat Trump there 178,573 (55.72%) to 95,369 (30.27%). Trump won just one of Vermont's 14 counties (Essex, the least populated). Florida is a more swingy state, although the PVI is R+2. Although Obama won Florida both times he ran, Hillary gave up on the state's crucial 29 electoral votes. Trump beat her (narrowly)-- 4,617,886 (49.0%) to 4,504,975 (47.8%). Of the state's 67 counties, she won 9.

Both states have Republican governors named Scott-- Phil Scott in Verment, who is running for reelection, and Rick Scott in Florida, who is running for the U.S. Senate. And the NRA has turned against each of them. In 2016 the gubernatorial seat was open in Vermont and the Democrats ran a weak EMILY's List nothing candidate, Sue Minter. Scott, the state's lieutenant governor, beat her 166,817 (52.96%) to 139,253 (44.21%).

Rick Scott, a convicted criminal who was caught stealing from Medicare, beat another weak EMILY's List nothing candidate, Alex Sink, in his first run (2010). He was reelected in 2014 against pointless ex-Republican Charlie Crist. In 2010 he beat Sink 2,619,335 (48.9%) to 2,557,785 (47.7%), largely because she allowed EMILY's List run her campaign). In 2014, Scott beat Crist 2,865,343 (48.1%) to 2,801,198 (47.1%) to 2,865,343 (48.1%).

Today the NRA is angry with both governors. How angry? Last week Phil Scott approved a package of gun-related laws passed by the state legislature and the NRA called on gun owners to abandon him. Dana Loesch, a national spokeswoman for the NRA: "This governor in Vermont completely gave a one-finger salute to the Constitution and to gun owners. He is no friend of firearm owners and I hope that all firearm owners remember this betrayal the next time he’s up for re-election." That's in about half a year.
The NRA gave Scott an A rating during his first gubernatorial campaign in 2016, when Scott said he saw no need for new Vermont gun laws. The governor changed his position in February "after deep reflection" after an alleged school shooting plot came to light in Fair Haven, and on Wednesday he signed three gun-related bills into law.

Loesch described Scott's shift as "an attempt to appease the gun-grabbers in his state."

The NRA spokeswoman seemed particularly bothered by S.221, a bill that won support from even the most ardent gun-rights lawmakers and passed both the Vermont House and the Vermont Senate unanimously.

The new law sets up a court process from removing weapons from people deemed to be at "extreme risk" of violence or suicide. State's attorneys or the Attorney General's Office may petition a family court judge to require a person to relinquish their firearms for up to six months. In emergency situations, these orders may be granted without the person's knowledge, and would expire after 14 days.

... Gun-rights advocates have reacted angrily to Scott's decision to sign the bills, and some jeered and shouted during the bill signing ceremony Wednesday.

"I understand I may lose support over the decision to sign these bills today," Scott said, "but those are consequences I am prepared to live with."

Scott will seek re-election for a second term in November. He is facing a challenge from fellow Republican Keith Stern, who has made gun rights a cornerstone of his campaign.
Rick Scott has an uphill battle to displace Bill Nelson-- especially in a blue wave environment. The last thing he needs is his right flank in tatters. And that's what he's got, with gun nuts stepping up their attacks on him for signing gun control legislation after the school shooting in Parkland. First off, the far right Republican Trumpist campaigning to replace him as governor, Ron DeSantis says he would have vetoed the legislation Scott signed. And the gun group to the right of the NRA, the National Organization for Gun Rights, has already attacked him in an e-mail entitled "Gov. Gun Control Running for Senate," for signing a popular bill putting minor restrictions on the sale of assault-style weapons.

One of the most respected Democratic political operatives in Florida, an old friend, Kevin Cate: "The whole guns and NRA situation is very complicated for Rick Scott. This is a guy who sprinted far to the right, who's BFFs with Donald Trump, he signed a gun bill that did have some more moderate positions in it, so he's got to be sprinting back and forth, back and forth, and someone as robotic as Rick Scott, that's tough for him to do. He's got to sprint back and forth to keep that base happy because if they don't turn out, if these Trump folks don't turn out, he doesn't have a chance."

Meanwhile, reflecting one of those back and forth, the Tampa Bay Times reported late last week that mayors of several cities are suing Scott for sticking with the NRA's agenda.
[St. Petersburg] Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Wednesday that he will join 10 other Florida cities and mayors in a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott over the issue of being able to regulate firearms in local jurisdictions.

..."What I see is a collective effort at taking away our home rule authority,'' he said. "I also find it incredibly ironic…the Florida legislature complains about Washington telling them what to do…But they don't seem to have any problem telling us, cities and counties, what to do."

The mayor said he would ban military style weapons, bump stocks, and armor-piercing bullets if he could.

"Governor Scott and legislative leaders decided to overstep their authority and use fear and intimidation as a tactic to preserve the NRA's agenda," Kriseman tweeted before the City Hall announcement.
Alex Leary and Steve Bousquet, writing for the Miami Herald speculate that Scott angering the gun nuts would actually help him in November. Yes, gun nuts are angry. Comments on Scott's campaign Facebook page prove that: "Sorry, Governor Scott. You blew it when you signed the anti-gun legislation into law. Will not be voting for you," one person wrote. Another compared him to Democrat Charlie Crist. A third fumed, "Shouldn’t have gone against Americans with your knee jerk pandering to the gun grabbers." Scott’s embrace of Florida’s first gun restrictions in decades has infuriated the gun lobby and its fiercely loyal lieutenants. What will the NRA do about Scott's A+ rating now? It's a lot more important than their stance on Phil Scott in Vermont.
If Scott escapes attacks after weakening gun rights, other Republicans may feel emboldened in a time of soaring public support for solutions to Parkland and other mass shootings.

“It has always been our practice to hold public officials accountable for their actions that impact law-abiding firearms owners and their Second Amendment rights. Nothing has changed,” said Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist who, pre-Parkland, had achieved a legendary reputation for her control over the agenda in Tallahassee. 
...“She is very much, 'You’re with us or you die,’ ” said Robert Spitzer, an expert on gun politics and chairman of the political science department at SUNY Cortland in New York. “But Scott’s well positioned. It’s certainly helpful to his campaign because he can say that he’s not completely in the thrall of the NRA.

“It’s a pretty clear message that it’s possible to weave a path that amounts to expressing support for gun rights but also some gun measures, even if they are limited.”

Part of the lesson, Spitzer added, “is that the NRA’s bark is worse than its bite. It’s certainly an influential group. But the idea they can just sort of wiggle their finger and make things happen magically in politics, it really isn’t like that. There are many other candidates who have sided with them then parted ways and lived to tell the story.”

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey was an A+ rated NRA darling during his 2010 campaign, the group spending $1.5 million to help him get elected. But a few years later, after the Sandy Hook tragedy, he sponsored bipartisan legislation to expand background checks. It did not pass and the NRA turned on Toomey, but he still won re-election in 2016.

“You can do the right thing and you’ll be fine,” Toomey said in an interview about the climate Scott now faces. “In his state, like mine, a majority of voters feel very strongly about the Second Amendment, as do I, and these folks voted for me. I commend him for being willing to stand up.”

Despite all the social media noise, the legislation just might help the Republican governor win a seat in the Senate.

The law Scott signed last month raised the age to buy a gun in Florida from 18 to 21 with a three-day waiting period. The NRA filed suit immediately. In public comments, Hammer included Scott among “turncoat Republicans” who “caved to bullying and coercion” by passing the changes in response to the shooting at a high school in Parkland that killed 17 people on Feb. 14.

Four years ago, Hammer praised Scott for his “historic” signing of five pro-gun bills.

Florida has long been at the vanguard of NRA-backed policies, including the controversial “stand your ground” law. But the national movement spurred by Parkland, with massive rallies in Washington and cities coast to coast, led to action from state and local governments and companies such as Dick’s Sporting Goods to end some gun sales.

It came just as Scott was preparing to run against Nelson, and Scott’s critics say his change of heart is all about politics. Scott showed no such initiative after the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando or an attack early last year at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

“The fact that Rick Scott in this politically craven way sees opportunity in accommodation with our side is an indication of the weakness of the NRA,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of a gun safety group started by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords. “But elections are about choices. Bill Nelson has had the courage throughout his tenure to do the right thing, to vote for gun safety, while Rick Scott was doing the exact opposite, while he was embracing the NRA.”

Nelson, who likes to tell audiences he’s been a lifelong hunter, charges that Scott “will say and do anything to try and get elected. He highlights an NRA-backed provision of the new law that calls for arming school personnel, though it would not apply to many teachers and school districts have largely said they would not participate in the optional program. (Scott opposed arming teachers but said he had to compromise.)

On raising the purchase age and adding the three-day waiting period, the Democrat said they were “steps in the right direction” but stressed that stricter measures are needed, including universal background checks and limiting large-capacity magazine clips. Nelson also wants to ban assault-style weapons.

For Scott, being under attack from the NRA could attract votes from independents and moderate voters who are more inclined to favor gun restrictions. Scott also has the support of some families of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who stood with him at his Capitol office in Tallahassee on March 23 as he signed the legislation. (Others, particularly Douglas students, say the legislation fell well short.)

Scott can avoid the weight of the NRA because he doesn’t face a serious primary challenger, will have no trouble raising money and is not likely to face an exodus of Republican voters over the gun issue.

... [The NRA] is unlikely to mount a full-throated attack on Scott, though it could withhold formal support. A membership drive mailer that reached homes across the state last week mentioned “anti-gun politicians” but did not say anything specific about Florida.

The showdown with Nelson is expected to be wildly expensive and extremely close. Scott won two races for governor by about 1 percentage point in Republican wave elections against underfunded Democratic opponents.

Four years ago, against Charlie Crist, Scott won 54 of 67 counties. Some of Scott’s most lopsided victory margins were in counties such as Bay, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa in the Florida Panhandle. Even there, in the most conservative region of the state, where opposition to gun restrictions could be strongest, Scott is unlikely to face a political backlash.

Rep. Brad Drake, a Walton County Republican and an A+ NRA-rated lawmaker who voted against the gun bill, said: “I’m going to strongly support Rick Scott. I agree with him on almost every issue. Once in a while we disagree, but it’s never personal. He’s very conscientious.”

Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, one of the NRA’s strongest allies in the Legislature, also voted against the gun bill, but said he has no quarrel with Scott.

“I view people based on their overall competence and effectiveness, and he’s A+ in my book. You’re never going to agree 100 percent of the time,” said Baxley, who represents The Villages, home to a vital bloc of Republican voters in statewide elections.

“It may give pause to some people who view the Second Amendment as a litmus test,” Baxley said. “But compared to the record of Sen. Nelson on the issue, the contrast is huge.”

Scott joins a host of other politicians who are finding daylight with the hard line of the NRA-- out west, in states such as Montana, some Democrats are shifting as well-- and it comes as Republicans face a tough midterm election climate.

Dan Eberhart, an energy executive and major conservative donor, recently held up Scott as an example of candidates needing to appeal to suburban voters and doing so by standing up to the NRA.

“Republicans are going to have to move a little to get 51 percent-plus in elections, and the NRA will have to deal with it,” Eberhart told the New York Times. “The NRA is really out of step with suburban GOP voters.”

Scott hasn’t brought up guns on the campaign trail but Nelson will make it an issue, as will a flood of outside groups trying to paint Scott as an opportunist.

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At 2:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NRA members dream of dying in defense of their gun rights just like Confederates died in defense of their right to own other human beings.


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