Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley received a passing grade but not an endorsement from the National Rifle Association’s PAC Tuesday in a candidate scorecard distributed ahead of Connecticut’s primary elections next month.
The NRA’s Political Victory Fund graded primary candidates for statewide office as well as House and Senate races. The “A” through “F” grades were based on candidates’ records pertaining to Second Amendment issues.
In the Republican gubernatorial primary race between 2010 nominee Tom Foley and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, the NRA gave Foley a “B-” and McKinney and “F.”
The group defines a “B” as a “generally pro-gun candidate,” but notes that the candidate may have taken some positions in support of gun control in the past. Meanwhile, the group describes a candidate assigned an “F” as a “true enemy of gun owners’ rights.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the Democratic nominee, was not graded as he is not facing a primary challenge.
McKinney’s failing grade from the national gun rights group likely stems from his role in the drafting and passage of more restrictive firearm regulations in the aftermath of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. McKinney’s senate district includes Newtown where the 26 murders took place.
McKinney defended his support of the legislation during a recent debate with Foley.
“I had the great honor of representing Newtown and Sandy Hook for the last 15 years in the state senate. I was with them at the firehouse that day. I shared the pain of those families when they were told their kids weren’t coming home,” he said.
Foley’s “B-” is likely due in part to his general comments in support of Second Amendment rights. In January, he told a gun rights group that, if elected, he would veto further restrictions on gun owners.
“I will promise you this — if I am governor any further attempts at restrictions on law-abiding gun owners by our legislature will stop at the governor’s office,” he said.
However, Foley has stopped short of calling for a repeal of the law and has been consistently unwilling to specify which gun control provisions of the statute he opposes. Through a spokesman, Foley said he was content with the NRA grade.
“A ‘B-’ in school would not have been okay with my parents but here a ‘B-’ is okay,” Foley said.
Scott Wilson, president of Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the NRA grades were fair ratings. CCDL was the statewide gun rights group Foley addressed in January. Wilson said the organization is approaching 15,000 members. He said many of those members are also affiliated with the NRA and consider the organization’s grades.
Wilson attributed the NRA’s modest assessment of Foley to the candidate’s statements and unproven record.
“Tom has never been elected to office before. I know he respects the rights of gun owners but that surely won’t be proven until he is in office,” he said.
As for McKinney, Wilson said an “F -” would have been more appropriate.
Connecticut Citizens Defense League has not yet graded candidates or made endorsements of its own.
On the other side of the gun control debate, Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said he would reverse the NRA grades. He said he would assign a “B+” to McKinney and a “C-” to Foley.
Pinciaro credited McKinney with working “very hard to come up with a fair and bipartisan solution” to the Sandy Hook shooting. He said McKinney’s ranking would have been higher, but he felt the candidate had “walked back” some of his earlier statements that were “more to our liking.”
Pinciaro said his group would be publishing scorecards for candidates for General Assembly seats within the next few weeks. However, he said they do not intend to publish candidate grades in the Republican gubernatorial primary race.
“We thought we would wait to see who the candidate was going to be before we made any endorsement or direct statements,” he said.
Although the NRA declined to make an endorsement in the GOP gubernatorial primary race, it did make endorsements in other contests. In the Republican primary race for lieutenant governor, the group endorsed, state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, who received an “A.”
Bacchiochi’s two primary opponents were both ranked highly by the NRA. Heather Somers received an “A-” and David Walker received an “AQ.” According to the group’s website, an “AQ” means the candidate was judged to be a “pro-gun candidate” based solely on his or her responses to a questionnaire.
The NRA also endorsed Democratic state Rep. Linda Orange over her primary challenger, Jason Paul. Orange, who voted against last year’s gun control bill, was given an “A-” grade. Paul, who has made Orange’s anti-gun control vote central to his campaign, scored a “D-.”