This time of year is always a little more exciting, but also makes me a little more anxious. We are about to hit another Election Day, and while this may be my first one as NRA-ILA executive director, I’ve been deeply involved with elections at NRA for three decades.
In other words, this is far from my first rodeo.
Some readers may be wondering what I am talking about, since the critical 2024 elections are still a year away. Yes, federal races, as well as most state races, are still a bit down the road; although not as far as you may think. But there are a handful of states that hold elections for their state legislatures, as well as some statewide offices, in odd-numbered years.
With that in mind, I wanted to address those states, as well as let one of the most powerful voting blocs in America—NRA members and other supporters of the Second Amendment—know both what is at stake, and what can be done to secure victories for our right to keep and bear arms on Election Day 2023.
Offices, names and dates may change, but what we do each election will be applicable in future elections, so I hope you will take note.
Rather than trying to put states in any sort of order, I’ll just start with Virginia. It’s where the NRA is headquartered, but it has also been one of the more intriguing states from an electoral perspective for many years.
Considered a swing state, Virginia’s top statewide offices are currently held by Republicans who have supported the Second Amendment. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, as well as the others, were elected in 2021, so their offices are not up this year. But control of the Virginia General Assembly—both the House of Delegates and the Senate—is in play.
Right now, control of the General Assembly is split, with Republicans holding control in the House and Democrats controlling the Senate. Both margins are very slim, though. The House, under current leadership, is pro-gun, while the Senate leans anti-gun. NRA members in Virginia, along with other Virginians who support the Second Amendment, need to do everything they can to add pro-gun lawmakers in the House and Senate.
While publication deadlines keep me from addressing specific Virginia races right now (which also applies to most other races for 2023), that information will be coming in time for you to make an informed, pro-gun decision when it is time to cast your ballot. I can tell you, however, that the Virginia Senate has become slightly more dangerous to our rights, as voters in the Democrat primaries have chosen to replace some of their more middle-of-the-road senators (not truly pro-gun, but not radically anti-gun, either) with candidates who fully support the most-extreme anti-gun policies.
Moving on to Mississippi, things are a little clearer, even though the primary elections have not yet been held as I write this. The state is considered a conservative stronghold, and both chambers of the legislature have strong, pro-gun majorities. NRA will work hard to ensure that continues. Along with the pro-gun legislature, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who is running for re-election, has been working to protect the Second Amendment.
I’ve known Gov. Reeves for several years, and he has always been eager to help NRA promote pro-gun policies. At the height of the recent pandemic, while some governors tried to shut down firearm manufacturers and retailers, Gov. Reeves made sure they remained open as essential services.
In Kentucky, while the state legislature is not up this year, statewide offices will be decided. Current Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) is running for governor, and he has secured his party’s nomination. Attorney General Cameron is another avid supporter of law-abiding gun owners that I have known for some time, and he has consistently supported the Second Amendment as Kentucky’s chief law-enforcement officer. He has signed onto numerous amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs that supported legal challenges to unconstitutional laws that violated the protections enshrined in the Second Amendment. That includes, of course, the landmark NYSRPA v. Bruen (2022) case, where the United States Supreme Court affirmed, among other things, that the right to self-defense extends outside the home.
Looking to replace Daniel Cameron as Kentucky AG is another supporter of the Second Amendment, Russell Coleman (R). He has also secured his party’s nomination and holds a strong belief in the individual right to keep and bear arms.
Down in Louisiana, this year’s elections could give us the opportunity to finally enact constitutional carry in the Sportsman’s Paradise. NRA-ILA has worked with the pro-gun majorities in the Louisiana State Legislature to pass this critical legislation, only to have it vetoed by current Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). Edwards is term-limited out, so the pro-gun community has the opportunity to elect a new governor who will sign constitutional carry, joining Louisiana with all of its neighboring states to no longer require law-abiding citizens to first seek government permission before they can exercise their right to self-defense.
The votes of law-abiding gun owners can make the difference between victory and defeat.
Jeff Landry (R), the current Louisiana AG, is seeking to become the next governor, and he is yet another supporter of the Second Amendment I know well. Like AG Cameron in Kentucky, AG Landry has signed and authored several amicus briefs in support of the Second Amendment.
Finally, there’s New Jersey. While the Garden State has a history of promoting and enacting anti-gun laws, there will be clear opportunities to try to turn the state in a more-favorable direction. We may not have a pro-gun majority in our sights yet, but there will be numerous key races where the votes of law-abiding gun owners can make the difference between victory and defeat.
So, as I mentioned earlier, publication deadlines—not to mention space limitations—make it difficult to offer much detail on specific races. But as we get closer to the elections in the five states mentioned, you will start receiving those details. As all members get each election cycle at the national level, those members in the states mentioned here will receive postcards, email messages, texts and phone calls announcing official NRA-PVF endorsements.
But I don’t want you to just wait for notification about the candidates recommended by NRA-PVF. Voting is, of course, critical to our success, so while it may seem obvious, make sure you are registered to vote. If you haven’t voted in a while, or if you’ve moved since the last time you voted, I want to make sure you don’t get turned away at the polls because something in your voter registration isn’t up to date. Go to triggerthevote.org/register-to-vote to make sure your vote can be counted.
To make sure we can contact you in the fastest, most efficient way possible, go to nraila.org/sign-up, so we have you in our system for electronic communications.
Those are easy steps you can take, but there’s much more that you can do to ensure the Second Amendment is preserved for future generations.
Besides overseeing NRA-ILA’s legislative and political programs, I also oversee our vaunted grassroots programs that help make NRA the most effective organization working to defend the Second Amendment. Some of the most important contributors to our grassroots programs are NRA-ILA FrontLines Activist Leaders (FAL). FALs are NRA members who coordinate and implement NRA-ILA’s grassroots activities and programs in their areas. FALs work with NRA staff, NRA members, and pro-gun supporters in their area to provide ground-level support for NRA-ILA programs and activities on a year-round basis. This includes election and legislative efforts. This is a leadership role that requires a high level of organization and an ongoing commitment in support of NRA-ILA’s agenda and efforts.
During campaign seasons, like the upcoming one I’ve been talking about, FALs work directly with their NRA-ILA Campaign Field Representatives (CFR) to organize volunteers for voter contact and get-out-the-vote efforts. In the absence of a CFR in their area, FALs will organize volunteers to directly support the grassroots efforts of NRA-PVF endorsed campaigns.
The role of the FAL doesn’t stop with just campaign activities. As the tip of our grassroots spear, FALs work directly with their Grassroots Coordinators to also implement NRA-ILA’s Grassroots programs and activate their volunteer networks in support of NRA-ILA’s legislative agendas at the federal, state and local levels.
Even if you can spare only an hour a week or a couple of days each month to work with your FAL, he or she needs to hear from you. The power of NRA comes from our members and supporters. And while we can’t expect every Second Amendment supporter to do everything, we must work to ensure we all do something!
If you are interested in working with your FAL, go online to nraila.org/grassroots/find-your-frontlines-activist-leader, then fill out the included form or select your state to find their contact information. If your area currently has a FAL vacancy and you are interested in serving in this leadership capacity, please call NRA-ILA’s Grassroots Division at 800-392-VOTE (8683) and ask to speak with your state’s Grassroots Coordinator.
I know you’ve heard this over and over again, but it bears repeating: Elections matter! Over the last 30 years, I cannot tell you how many races I have seen decided by a mere handful of votes, and especially at the state level. Now, as much as ever, it is imperative that everyone reading my words lives up to the standard of the legendary bumper sticker this great organization made famous and others have tried to copy: I’m the NRA and I Vote.