GRNC president Paul Valone answers frequently asked questions about GRNC candidate evaluations & recommendations...

"What's the difference between a GRNC Evaluation and a GRNC-Political Victory Fund Recommendation?"

As part of its 2014 "Remember in November" voter education project, GRNC compiled voting records, bill sponsorship history and survey scores on 532 candidates for US Senate, US House, NC Senate, NC House and county Sheriff. Remember in November candidate evaluations are completely objective, since they are based on a numerical formula which estimates how often a given candidate can be expected to agree with a control group of GRNC Life and Benefactor members.

By contrast, GRNC-PVF candidate recommendations are our equivalent of an "endorsement." Given the nature of politicians, we generally prefer not to give blanket "endorsements," since those have a habit of coming back to bite us. Instead, we make "recommendations for effective voting strategies" for a limited number of contested primaries with clear pro-gun candidates. In the 2014 primary, we have thus far made 41 such recommendations, with more likely to follow.

"Why did you give Joe Blow a 0-star evaluation? I know he's (pick one): [pro-gun] [pro-Constitution] [pro-life] [anti-illegal immigration]."

There are two possible reasons for a GRNC 0-star evaluation: Poor voting and/or bill sponsorship record, or else the candidate lacks a voting record and either scored poorly on or didn't return the GRNC candidate survey which was mailed to them at their NC State Board of Elections (SBOE) registered mailing address in early March.

In every election, GRNC gets dozens of "I never got the survey" complaints. In our experience, however, USPS doesn't lose that much mail. Every election year we also get a few surveys returned because the candidate didn't give a valid mailing address to the SBOE. With 532 candidates to track, we can't babysit every candidate who failed to supply a valid SBOE mailing address.

The reasons we zero any candidate who lacks a voting record and fails to submit the survey are: (1) Usually, those candidates are hostile to the Second Amendment; and (2) It provides an incentive to candidates who otherwise couldn't be bothered to identify their stance to voters.

"How are GRNC candidate evaluations determined?"

Unlike a certain large, national organization, GRNC candidate evaluations are objective. GRNC does not favor incumbents, nor do we make "deals" for ratings. Instead, we compile gun-related voting records, bill sponsorship and a measure we call "bill support" (reflecting willingness of leadership to move or kill bills) and survey scores, all of which go into a database which mathematically calculates correlation with the control group of GRNC Life and Benefactor members. A candidate who concurs at least 90% of the time gets four stars (****); 80%, 3 stars (***), 70%, 2 stars (**), 60%, 1 star (*) and less than 60%, 0 stars (0).

"Why did the NRA-PVF endorse Thom Tillis while GRNC-PVF recommends Greg Brannon?"

See the FAQ above: GRNC does not make "deals" for candidate evaluations, nor does GRNC-PVF advocate the likely winner in the interest of inflating our "win" ratio. Unfortunately, the NRA does both, including having a so-called "friendly incumbent" policy which favors a supposedly pro-gun (but often mediocre) incumbent against a superior challenger.

Although NRA-ILA director Chris Cox claims, “As Speaker of the North Carolina General Assembly, Thom was instrumental in passing two of the most comprehensive pro-gun reforms in state history,” in reality the NC Senate under President Pro Tem Phil Berger did the heavy lifting on House Bill 937 and, to a large extent, HB 650, the two reforms in question.

In early 2013, Speaker Tillis caused restaurant carry to be stripped from HB 17, passing a gutless bill out of committee and nearly triggering a floor fight from his own caucus, which uniformly supported restaurant carry. Only under mounting pressure from both GRNC and from within the Republican caucus did he finally relent and have Representatives Jacqueline Schaffer and Justin Burr draft HB 937, which in its original, mild form expanded concealed carry only to restaurants and within closed compartments of locked motor vehicles at institutions of higher learning.

Only once the bill left the House did the Senate turn it into (more than) what we have today. Thanks in large part to Sen. Berger and Judiciary Chairman Buck Newton, the Senate version dramatically expanded concealed carry to include more areas of municipal parks, all public educational institutions, parades and funerals, state government parking lots, and more.

In particular, the Senate version of HB 937 included repeal of our archaic, Jim Crow-era pistol purchase permit law -- a law The Charlotte Observer found actually allows felons to retain previously issued permits. Under pressure from the NC Sheriffs' Association and the Governor, however, Tillis refused to simply concur with the Senate version, insisting the bill go to a conference committee to strip the measure.

Tillis' insistence on a conference committee nearly killed the bill. Only under significant pressure from GRNC and others, and after negotiations weakened purchase permit reform, did the Speaker move the bill -- and then only a few days before adjournment of the session. Without the conference committee recommendation, the bill would technically have remained alive for the 2014 session. But in reality, politicians would have refused to move it in an election year, just as they did previous restaurant carry legislation.

Did Tillis move the bill? Yes, albeit reluctantly. Would he be better for gun rights than Kay Hagan? Most likely. But is he a Second Amendment hero? As Hertz is fond of saying, "Not exactly."

"Why did GRNC-PVF recommend Greg Brannon over Mark Harris?"

Mark Harris is an honorable gentleman who would make a fine U.S. Senator. Unfortunately, trailing Tillis and Brannon in both the polls and fundraising, he is also being used by "mainstream" Republicans to divide the conservative vote and assure Tillis the nomination.

The GOP comprises three factions: Centrist "Country Club Republicans," religious conservatives, and libertarians. Faced with Tea Party challengers, "mainstreamers" like Karl Rove (who supports Tillis) are finding novel ways to retain their death grip on power. Perhaps most telling, former Congressman and GOP chairman Robin Hayes endorsed Harris even when his fundraising was at pathetic levels. And why is that telling? Because Hayes is good friends with Tillis.

Having spoken with Harris, I believe he is sincere when he says dividing conservatives is neither the intent of the campaign (and its supporters) nor its practical impact. Unfortunately, being sincere does not make one correct. Never forget that in past presidential races, Ralph Nader's biggest contributors were Republicans.

"Why did GRNC-PVF recommend Jeanette Doran for NC Supreme Court Associate Justice?"

With a 3-way primary and a total of seven statewide judicial elections this year, it is critical that gun voters ensure gains made by the General Assembly aren't negated by liberal judges, especially in the NC Supreme Court. Accordingly, we created the GRNC-PVF Judicial Evaluation Project, which will make recommendations in all of those races.

Unfortunately, judges lack voting records and are limited by judicial impartiality in their ability to answer surveys. Accordingly, we used interviews and outreach to conservative lawyers to arrive at the recommendation. Eric Levinson is a good alternative in the 3-way primary and GRNC-PVF will support him if he advances to the General Election. But in the primary, gun voters can only choose one candidate. Evidence indicates that Jeanette Doran is a strict constitutionalist most likely to support the Second Amendment.

"What does GRNC's candidate survey include?"

In order to protect pro-gun candidates from anti-gun opponents who might misrepresent both GRNC survey questions and candidates' answers, GRNC generally declines to release either the survey or individual candidates' answers. In the same vein, the survey contains 'throwaway' questions so that even if a candidate is scored 100%, it cannot be stated with certainty what he answered in response to any given question. Suffice to say, topics covered are picked to reveal politicians' opinions on timely topics. Included in 2014: So-called "universal background checks," limits on semi-automatic firearms and ammunition feeding devices, local government adherence to statewide preemption, "Stand Your Ground" laws, bearing arms outside the home, constitutional carry, and North Carolina's pistol purchase permit law. Sheriff survey questions included issuance of permits and Title II firearms.

Here is how 2014 GRNC candidate evaluations were derived:

  1. The State Board of Elections database of candidates was downloaded and turned into mailing labels, which were affixed to surveys by a group of volunteers and mailed, with a return deadline 10 business days later.

  2. The surveys themselves require the candidate to answer statements on a 5 point agree to disagree scale, the answers for which are plugged, by yet another volunteer, into a spreadsheet which mathematically calculates the score by measuring numerical concurrence with the control group of GRNC Life and Benefactor members. If, for example, a candidate answers "4" while the control group measures "5", a point is deducted from the score. The score you see in our voter guides is the average of all survey scores submitted over the life of the candidate, stretching back to 1998.

  3. That score is then entered into a spreadsheet and averaged with gun votes (if any), bill sponsorship and bill support, with votes being overweighted by a factor of 3. (Note: Lack of a voting record does not hurt the candidate's evaluation).

The entire structure of the GRNC candidate evaluation system -- which Neal Knox used to advocate to other groups, while he was alive -- is to create objective candidate evaluations.


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(or: http://www.grnc.org/grnc-pvf/donate-to-grnc-pvf).


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