McAuliffe and Cuccinelli II
The National Rifle Association is wading into the Virginia governor’s race with a six-figure ad campaign, potentially reviving a debate over gun issues that has been mostly dormant in the contest.
Beginning Monday, the group will begin airing $500,000 worth of statewide television and online ads hitting Democrat Terry McAuliffe for his firearms stances, according to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. The campaign is designed to benefit Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), a longtime gun rights advocate who has lagged behind McAuliffe on the financial front and can use the help on the airwaves.
McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin used the news to portray Cuccinelli as out of step with Virginia voters on gun laws.
He added that Cuccinelli had shown “career-long opposition to common-sense measures that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.”
Gun rights supporters have long outnumbered foes in Richmond, but there have been signs in recent years, as Virginia has become a more purple state, that the issue has lost some of its potency. Last year, Timothy M. Kaine (D) beat George Allen (R) in a high-profile Senate race despite Kaine’s “F” grade from the NRA and Allen’s “A.”
“I have called for universal background checks,” McAuliffe said. “My opponent doesn’t support that. I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I’m a hunter. I own guns. . . . There are certain individuals who just should not own a gun. There are individuals that have mental illness. I think this is such a critical issue for us. . . . As governor, I’m gonna push. Most importantly, we need universal background checks for everyone.”