By Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — The National Rifle Association’s political arm has announced its ratings and endorsements of candidates in the May 2014 primary.
Several coalfield candidates received either “A” or “A-plus” ratings from the group that advocates for gun ownership. Two incumbent coalfield House Democrats, Justin Marcum and Rupie Phillips, earned the top score of “A-plus.”
The NRA’s Political Victory Fund scores legislators and candidates based on their recorded or stated position on various issues related to Second Amendment rights, as seen by the largely conservative group. In fact, the organization’s explanation of what grades mean says an “F” goes to a candidate who is a “true enemy of gun owners’ rights.”
Meanwhile, an “A-plus” can only go to incumbent legislators “who (have) an excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues, but who (have) also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment.” An “A” is awarded to those who the NRA judges are pro-NRA but are not currently holding office.
Since local state Senate races are not contested in the primary, the NRA issued no endorsements or grades. In what is expected to be close primary fight in Cabell County, however, Democrat Robert Alexander achieved an “AQ” score while his primary opponent, Michael Woelfel failed to answer the questionnaire. An “AQ” goes to someone without a public voting record and is based on their questionnaire answers. Alexander’s answers were enough to win him the NRA endorsement.
The group also did not grade or endorse in House of Delegates primary races where there is no contest. In other words, if only one candidate filed in a single-delegate district race, there is no grade or endorsement. Likewise, if two filed in a two-member district and so on.
In House District 16, which includes Cabell and part of Lincoln County, incumbent Republican Carol Miller was endorsed with an “A” rating. Since there are no more Democrat candidates than positions to fill in the primary, the NRA did not rate the other incumbent, Democrat Jim Morgan.
Mingo County Democrat Marcum, an incumbent, received an “A-plus” rating and earned the endorsement in District 20. His primary opponent, Michael Baisden, did not submit answers.
In District 22, which includes parts of Boone, Lincoln, Logan and Putnam counties, incumbent Democrat Joshua J. Barker of Boone County received the endorsement and an “A” rating, as did his fellow incumbent Democrat Jeff Eldridge of Lincoln County. The third candidate in the two-person district, Gary McCallister of Lincoln, received a grade of “D” and was not endorsed.
The two Democrat incumbents in District 24, Phillips and Teddy Tomblin were endorsed. Phillips received an”A-plus” grade while Tomblin received an “A.” Former Democrat Del. Ralph Rodighiero received a “B-minus” score while newcomer Democrat David Graham did not answer the questions.
In Kanawha County’s 35th District, four Republicans and three Democrats were endorsed for the four seats. Incumbent Republicans John B. McCuskey, Eric Nelson and Suzette Raines were endorsed. McCuskey achieved an “A” rating, while Nelson and Raines were both graded “B-plus.” The fourth Republican to win endorsement was Marie Sprouse-McDavid, a newcomer who earned an “AQ” grade. Republican non-incumbents, A. Richard McGinnis and Christopher Stansbury were not endorsed, although Stansbury received an “AQ” while McGinnis was rated a “C.”
Democrats endorsed were Andrew Byrd, John Caudill IV and Bret Nida. All are non-incumbents. Byrd and Nida received a grade of “AQ,” and Caudill was rated “A-minus.” Former Del. Barbara Hatfield, attempting a comeback, received an “F.” The other Democrat candidates did not answer the questionnaire.
Incumbent Democrat Mark Hunt is the only endorsed candidate in Kanawha’s District 36. He earned a grade of “A-plus.” Two other incumbents, Nancy Guthrie and Danny Wells, both Democrats, were scored “F’s.” The 36th is a three-member district.
Former Democrat Del. Larry Rowe also received an “F.” Although four Republican newcomers earned “AQ” grades, none were endorsed. They are Jennifer Knauff, Vaughn Sizemore, Stephen Thaxton and Brad White. Republican Adam Marcum was graded a “B,” GOP member Charles Bradford scored a “C-minus,” and Republican George Moore II was rated a “D-plus.”
In Charleston’s downtown 37th District, where incumbent Democrat Meshea Poore is leaving to run for Congress, nobody was endorsed. Three Democrats, Archie Chestnut, Richard Lindsay II and Robert Sheets, did not complete their forms. Democrat Brad Heflin received a “D” and fellow candidate Michael Pushkin got an “F.”
In other races of interest around the state, Democrat House Speaker Tim Miley of Harrison County scored an “A-plus” and was endorsed.
Those interested in more information concerning the NRA-endorsed candidates can contact Jim Poore at 304-595-7003.