BANGOR, Maine — Less than two weeks before the June 10 primary, the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund on Friday endorsed Kevin Raye, one of two Republicans seeking to be the party’s candidate in the race for an open seat in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
Mike Leavitt, a spokesman for the Raye campaign, announced the endorsement Friday morning.
“Gun ownership and Second Amendment rights are a long tradition in the 2nd District,” Leavitt said. “Kevin has consistently voted in favor of the Second Amendment, and he is very excited to have this endorsement.”
In a news release, Leavitt attacked Bruce Poliquin, Raye’s opponent in the primary.
“Kevin’s record stands in contrast to Bruce Poliquin’s history of donating to Handgun Control, Inc., and his support for mandatory background checks while running for governor in 2010,” Leavitt said.
Poliquin was the only Republican in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary who said he supports mandatory background checks for gun purchases. In December 1989, he donated $500 to an organization known as Handgun Control, Inc., which later became The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Poliquin has been emphasizing on the campaign trail this year that he is a supporter of the 2nd Amendment — as well as the rest of the Constitution — and that his campaign has been picking up endorsements from gun rights supporters within Maine. Poliquin wrote a column in the BDN earlier this month that directly contradicts his response in the 2010 debate and his 1989 donation.
“I’m a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights,” wrote Poliquin. “I do not support, and never have, the extreme objectives of national gun control groups, such as a federal directory of gun owners or expanded background checks.”
Poliquin’s campaign said Friday that NRA endorsements often lean toward politicians who have already been in office and who have records of opposing gun control legislation. On that basis, the organization gave Raye an “A” rating and Poliquin an “A-minus” rating. Poliquin served for two years as state treasurer, but he has not served in the Legislature — as Raye has — or held statewide elected office.
Poliquin said Friday his answer during the 2010 debate was in reference to the existing federal law that requires background checks for gun purchases but that he does not support expanding that in any way.
“I don’t support any further gun control laws,” Poliquin said by phone. “I don’t support expanding background checks. I don’t support a national registry of gun owners.”
Gun rights remains an issue that, by itself, is a deciding factor for many voters, as Mal Jeffrey of Abbott recently told the Bangor Daily News.
“I’m very interested in gun control efforts for years because I’m against them,” Jeffrey said. “I’ve been that way for years, and I vote accordingly.”
Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash, who is competing against Sen. Emily Cain for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, said Friday morning he would have welcomed the endorsement. Jackson said he is wary of many efforts at gun control, as was evidenced earlier this year with his vote against LD 1240, which would have imposed fines for private gun sales when the seller failed to do a background check. Jackson was one of only two Democrats in the Senate who opposed the bill, which ultimately failed after being vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage.
“In Maine, we have a great culture of teaching kids and each other about gun safety,” said Jackson, who was in Bangor Friday morning for the Democratic State Convention. “It’s an important issue for the 2nd District.”
The NRA endorsement doesn’t automatically go to Republicans. In 2012, the group endorsed U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat who is leaving the 2nd District seat to run for governor, in his re-election bid against Raye.