NRA plans to play big for Mitch McConnell; Alison Grimes invites senator to gun range

November 07, 2013 | | Comments 11

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman

When Mitch McConnell receives the National Rifle Association’s “Defender of Freedom” Award in Louisville Friday, he and the group will be cementing a friendship that McConnell’s team thinks could be the difference in next year’s Senate race.

The NRA, which spent more than $16 million in the 2012 election cycle, plans to be heavily involved in McConnell’s re-election effort, the group said Thursday.

“We’re watching closely,” Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “And we’re going to make sure that gun owners in Kentucky understand that they have a champion representing them in the United States Senate.”

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the likely Democratic challenger to McConnell, had a simple response on Thursday, challenging McConnell to meet her on the gun range.

“As an NRA member, my strong support for the Second Amendment is unquestioned,” Grimes said in a statement to the Herald-Leader. “I am proud of Kentucky’s long-held gun ownership, sporting and hunting traditions. It is unfortunate that Sen. McConnell is desperate to mislead Kentucky voters about my strong support for the Second Amendment.”

If elected, Grimes said she would protect Kentuckians’ right to keep and bear arms.

“Whenever he’s not busy pandering to Washington lobbyists, I welcome Sen. McConnell to come shoot with me at the range any day,” she said.

On the range or not, Cox said Grimes has only paid “lip service” to gun owners, comparing the Democrat to President Barack Obama, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

“It’s safe to say that law-abiding gun owners in Kentucky represent not only a loyal group of voters but a savvy group of voters,” Cox said. “And they know the difference between campaign rhetoric and someone who has fought in the trenches for years for their issues.”

Grimes angered the group by attending a Las Vegas fundraiser last month where trial attorney Michael Papantonio was a co-host. In the wake of mass shootings, Papantonio has been intensely critical of the NRA.

“Thankfully, Mitch McConnell isn’t interested in exploiting tragedy,” Cox said.

Cox said the NRA generally waits until after filing deadlines — Kentucky’s is Jan. 28 — before it gets involved in races. But when they do, it will be heavily involved in trying to help McConnell, who is facing fierce challenges from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin in the Republican primary and Grimes.

To that end, the NRA will be hosting events at gun shows, doing literature drops, going door-to-door and running television, radio and online advertising on McConnell’s behalf.

“It’ll include all of the above and the kitchen sink,” Cox said.

The NRA’s political action committee, according to, has raised more than $10 million for the 2014 cycle and has more than $11 million cash on hand.

Despite intense political pressure following tragic events such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed last December, Cox said the group has its highest membership rolls to date with more than 5 million members nationwide.

But the group got little return on its investments in 2012, losing all the Senate races in which it invested and coming up short in its efforts to help Republican Mitt Romney beat Obama.

The McConnell campaign, which is using the award presentation and the start of deer-hunting season to launch “Sportsmen for Team Mitch,” sees an opening with gun owners.

“Kentuckians overwhelmingly support our right to responsibly hunt, fish and defend our homes,” McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said. “Alison Lundergan Grimes and her Obama-Hollywood crowd don’t understand why Kentucky holds these rights and traditions dear, but Mitch will not rest until their assaults on our liberty have been beaten back.”

If McConnell, who was presented with the NRA’s “Defender of the Constitution” award in 2008, can survive the challenge from Bevin, who enjoys the support of Gun Owners of America, he looks to be locked in a tight race with Grimes where every vote will count.

Cox said Thursday he believes gun owners can be the difference.

“Gun owners are understandably concerned,” Cox said. “And when gun owners are concerned and activated, they can make a difference in elections.”

Filed Under: Alison Lundergan GrimesElectionsMatt BevinMitch McConnellUS Senate Race

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  1. CoolerKing says:

    The gun-crazy zealots of the NRA don’t speak for me — or, it appears, most people. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that 89 percent of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun buyers. Even 82 percent of Republicans support it! The NRA is completely out of touch with the American people. Why the media gives it so much attention is beyond me — especially after it wasted half a million bucks on Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia.

  2. America_First says:

    While I support the right of Americans to own guns, I also support “Working Americans” ability to achieve the American Dream.

    What is Senator McConnnell’s track record for supporting “Working Americans”?

  3. America_First says:

    What is Senator McConnell’s record on support for Social Security and Medicare that “Working Americans” paid for, which now the GOP refer to as “entitlements”?

  4. America_First says:

    Reply to CoolerKing:

    While the NRA does not speak for the majority of Americans, odds are good that it speaks for the majority of Kentuckians.

  5. CoolerKing says:

    Reply to “America First”:

    I’m sorry but you are mistaken. A recent poll indicates that an overwhelming majority of Kentuckians — 82 percent — support background checks for gun purchases. That is a fact.

  6. Buck+Feshear says:

    CoolerKing: Why do you hate the Constitution?

  7. CoolerKing says:

    Buck: If you stopped getting all your information from right-wing propaganda outlets, you’d realize what an idiotic question that is. The Supreme Court — not you — decides what is constitutional and what is not (see Article III of our Constitution). In District of Columbia v Heller, the Supreme Court stated (and I quote): “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” and it upheld “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

    So no, I don’t hate the Constitution. But it sounds like maybe you do.

  8. Mitch McConnell is a Rino. Bevin is a conservative. This country will not follow the Constitution until we get real conservatives into office. We need candidates who will fight for the Constitution as it is written with as much energy to preserve the Constitution as Rinos and Democrat candidates fight to destroy the Constitution. McConnell is an Obama supporter. Put Bevins into the Senate. Lets begin taking our country back now. Vote for Bevin!

  9. America_First says:

    The “Tea Party” is a lot like Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

    The “Tea Party” is supporting candidates that purpose simple answers to complex problems, while the standard of living for the American Workers is steadily declining.

  10. Buck+Feshear says:

    Actually, the TEA party is trying to put the fire out while liberals and RINOs keep throwing gasoline on it.

  11. CoolerKing says:

    Buck: Exactly what do you mean by “the fire”? Because it cannot possibly be the economic downturn. The Tea Party’s government shutdown took $24 billion out of the US economy, and reduced projected fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent (according to Standard & Poor’s).