Campaigners for Idaho 2d congressional district incumbent Mike Simpson expect attacks on their boss that are similar to the ones on Ohio Republican Congressman Dave Joyce in the days leading up to that state’s May 6 primary.
In a letter addressed, “Dear fellow patriot,” the National Association for Gun Rights insinuated that Joyce belongs to a group of “weak-kneed Republicans” in Congress eager to nudge President Obama’s “anti-gun” record forward. The letter says Joyce didn’t fill out the group’s candidate survey.
In an almost identical letter, NAGR also criticized Simpson for not filling out a survey.
“When candidates, especially those who already have a lackluster voting record, refuse to answer the specific question we ask, it’s a strong indicator they’re willing to vote anti-gun,” spokeswoman Danielle Thompson said in an email. “NAGR will continue to inform our members and supporters of these facts, in hopes Congressman Simpson will return his survey and abandon his support for anti-gun schemes.”
Thompson pointed to several Simpson votes for bills she said would have cracked down on bun shows, forced more gun owners to register and increased scrutiny of gun transactions. She didn’t respond to questions of how NAGR plans to contact voters.
Simpson's camp countered Friday evening that one of Simpson's votes Thompson referenced was in favor of a comprehensive juvenile justice bill that cracked down on violent criminals.
That law banned selling guns to minors if the seller has reason to believe the guns will be used in a school zone or in a "serious violent felony." It also increased penalties for minors who illegally possess firearms and for people who illegally sell guns to minors.
Eleven Republicans voted against the bill, compared to 206 who voted for it. A total of 127 Democrats voted against the bill, and 87 voted for it. Besides Simpson, Bob Barr, former presidential nominee for the Libertarian party, supported the bill, as did many of the most conservative members of Congress and leaders for some of the groups now backing Simpson's challenger, Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith.
Another vote was on a Republican response to a gun-control push by Democrats in the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. Again, some of Congress' most conservative, pro-gun voices backed the bill.
Simpson's campaign fired off a testy response to the National Association for Gun Rights' accusations.
“The NAGR has developed a well-deserved reputation as a fringe group dedicated to fundraising and lies, not gun rights,” Simpson spokeswoman Sarah Nelson said in an email. “They are flat out lying about Congressman Simpson’s record, expecting Idahoans to believe that not only is Congressman Simpson anti-gun, but so were people like Helen Chenoweth, Jim DeMint, Dick Armey and Tom Tancredo. If it weren’t so misleading, it would be funny. Congressman Simpson enjoys the support of the NRA in this race and has received their highest rating – A plus. We’re not going to stand by and watch a fringe group that no one has ever heard of lie about Congressman Simpson’s voting record and mislead the pro-gun voters of Idaho.“Given we have the endorsement of the NRA, we are confident that voters will not be fooled by baseless attacks on (Simpson’s) second amendment record. Idaho voters know, respect and trust the NRA. It is the gold standard endorsement on gun issues for a reason.”