- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

The National Rifle Association of America yesterday endorsed state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds for Virginia attorney general, its first Democratic endorsement in Virginia in many years.

Mr. Deeds received the nod over Republican candidate Robert F. McDonnell. The election is Nov. 8.

The NRA said its endorsements are not decided by party affiliation, but the group has endorsed just one Democrat in the past four statewide elections.

“Creigh Deeds has had a history of being supportive of the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment,” said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.

Mr. Deeds, a state senator from Bath County, sponsored a state constitutional amendment that guaranteed the right to hunt, fish and trap game. Voters approved the amendment in 2000.

Mr. McDonnell, a delegate from Virginia Beach, opposed the amendment because it put sportsmen “at the mercy of the legislature.”

In 1997, the NRA endorsed Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor L.F. Payne. He did not win. The group endorsed only Republicans for statewide offices in 2001, 1997, 1993 and 1989.

Endorsements for this year’s race for governor and lieutenant governor are forthcoming, Mr. Arulanandam said.

The NRA endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore, who has an “A” rating from the group, in the June Republican primary election. His opponent is Democrat Timothy M. Kaine.

Republican William T. Bolling is challenging Democrat Leslie L. Byrne for lieutenant governor.

Both Mr. Kaine and Mrs. Byrne have “F” ratings from the NRA and are not likely to get the group’s endorsement.

The NRA declined to endorse either Mark L. Earley, a Republican, or Mark Warner, a Democrat, in the 2001 gubernatorial race.

But, in late October 2001, the NRA urged voters to choose Mr. Earley. The group said he was a better candidate, with an “A-” rating, than Mr. Warner, who had a “C.”

Mr. Warner, viewed by many in rural Virginia as pro-gun and sportsmen rights, won the race.

The gubernatorial candidates who won NRA endorsements in 1993 and 1997 won their races.

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