Some Republicans See Momentum In Gun Sanctuary Movement. Will It Work?

Democrats in Virginia now hold unified control of state government for the first time since 1993 after making big gains in the 2017 and 2019 elections. Part of that success they attribute to promising to deliver what they call common-sense gun legislation.

Polls released after the 2019 legislative elections, in which Democrats captured the House of Delegates and Senate, showed that gun violence prevention was in fact the top issue for voters.

However, the Republican losses, along with Democrats filing the actual bills that will tighten gun laws, has motivated gun activists to mobilize. These efforts are being spearheaded by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a group that says it is “dedicated to advancing the rights of Virginians to keep and bear arms pursuant to the Second Amendment.”

They have enacted a sweeping campaign to pressure elected officials in localities across Virginia to declare themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”

Scores of localities have passed some form of the measure, according to the VCDL. Gun rights supporters haven’t been shy, showing up at local government meetings by the hundreds to try influence local officials.

Meetings in Virginia Beach and Prince George and Prince William counties were a testament to the ability of the gun groups to mobilize, with crowds filling up the overflow rooms and spilling outside. Seeing the movement unfold, some Republicans are beginning to feel flickers of optimism that they finally have a message to rally around and counter Democratic momentum heading into 2020.

“Finally the Democrats have touched on an issue where Republicans are entirely unwilling to compromise,” said Shaun Kenney, former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia. “If Virginia wasn’t in play for Trump before, it is now.”

Not everyone sees it that way. Virginia has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 2004, and a Republican has not won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009 when Bob McDonnell beat Creigh Deeds in the race for governor.

Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington, says it’s a reach to claim that gun control could reshape the 2020 elections in Virginia, with races for president, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on the ballot. Farnsworth says that the two biggest factors that will influence the presidential race will be the shape of the economy and who the Democrats nominate.

“It is important to remember that people tend to blame politicians who vote for a particular measure,” said Farnsworth. “(U.S. Rep. Abigail) Spanberger is not going to be voting on gun control measures at the state level. Individual lawmakers who vote for or against certain measures may be vulnerable in their own re-elections, two years from now.”

Some Democratic operatives and potential candidates who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they are concerned that leadership might overreach on guns, creating a backlash that will be hard to combat on the campaign trail in the years to come.

In meantime, groups who have been advocating for gun safety are urging legislators to move forward effectively by using evidence-based ideas.

“We need to be sure all Virginians have a seat at the table and that all voices are heard,” said Robyn Sordelett, a local lead for Moms Demand Action, a group founded after the Sandy Hook massacre. “In particular, that means engaging with rural Dems and their constituents. This isn’t about moderation — the people spoke loud and clear about their commitment to gun safety in the election. It’s about looking at what legislation has the best outcomes in other states so that we can enact evidence-based gun safety measures.”

‘We are not the problem’

With a presidential and congressional election coming in November, U.S. Reps. Elaine Luria of Norfolk and Abigail Spanberger of Henrico — both Democrats elected to their first term in 2017 by narrow margins in swing districts — could feel the first effects of the electorate’s response to gun control legislation.

Spanberger, the former CIA operative who upset Republican Dave Brat in 2018, represents a largely rural district that also includes Richmond’s suburbs and was formerly reliably Republican. Spanberger ran up the score in Henrico and Chesterfield to make up for the rural parts of the district that voted almost entirely for Brat.

Henrico, the heaviest Democratic stronghold of her district, voted to approve a sanctuary-like resolution after the board originally stated it was not going to address the issue at a previous meeting. However, pressure from pro-gun groups convinced Republican Pat O’Bannon to introduce the resolution asking all members of the board to swear to uphold the Constitution.

Activists from a group called Together We Will-Henrico, quickly responded with a petition stating the move by O’Bannon was an “act of political theater to placate a push by the  (VCDL) to make Henrico a 2A sanctuary city. TWWH would like to remind Ms. O’Bannon that all counties in Virginia must uphold all state and federal laws, not only the ones they personally agree with.”

Philip Van Cleave, the VCDL president, has vowed to oppose any new gun measures. “Other than bills that only affect criminals, any gun control the Democrats pass, they will own. Any Republicans that help them, are going to own that gun control, too. It matters not if the person voting to enslave us is a Democrat or a Republican.”

“We consider this a war on gun runners,” said Van Cleave in Chesterfield earlier this month. “We are not the problem, but they’re aimed at us.”

Some of Spanberger’s potential Republican opponents saw an opportunity at a meeting of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors meeting earlier this month, when pro-gun attendees unsuccessfully pushed for a sanctuary declaration. Among them: Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, Del. John McGuire R-Goochland and state Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield.

Chase, speaking in front of the building on the steps before the event told the crowd “this is all about sending a message to a governor.”

Freitas, who recently announced his run for Spanberger’s 7th Congressional District seat, was front and center in the auditorium as the Chesterfield Board was chastised by the crowd for not allowing a vote on the resolution.

“We are seeing thousands of Virginians across the commonwealth packing into board of supervisors meetings and standing out in the cold to fight for their constitutional rights,” Freitas said, calling out Spanberger and implying she has not spoken in support of the Second Amendment.

“Conservatives organizing like this is definitely good for conservative candidates’ chances in the future in Virginia and the silence from Democrats like Abigail Spanberger on these fundamental issues is deafening. The voters won’t forget about their silence come Election Day in 2020.”

However, at a recent town hall, Spanberger affirmed her support of the Second Amendment: “I fully support the Second Amendment,” she said. “It is a fundamental constitutional right.”

During the Chesterfield meeting, supporters of gun violence prevention legislation tried to speak over boos and yelling from the crowd. Supervisor Leslie Haley, a Republican, tried to maintain order but she was also shouted down, with members of the crowd referring to her as Nancy Pelosi.

Emily Hartman, a Midlothian resident who spoke before the board noted the risk of a loss of state funding if they enacted the sanctuary resolution. “Chesterfield receives $141 million dollars of state tax revenues annually. These millions are our share of taxes we paid into state coffers. These tax dollars make up 17% of our county’s overall revenue. Does our board risk losing our own tax dollars to fund our schools, to build roads, to produce agriculture and to protect citizens from gun violence?“

A 63-year-old Chesterfield resident who attended said he felt he had to stand up for his rights. “Extreme-risk laws and confiscation are not the answer,” said the man, who identified himself only as Dave. He was sure the gun backlash will help Republicans in Virginia in 2020. “Are you kidding me?” he said. “This just goes to show what happens to the world when Democrats have power.”

‘This why Republicans continue to lose’ 

In Virginia Beach, former GOP Congressman Scott Taylor, who was running against Democratic Sen. Mark Warner but may instead seek to reclaim his old seat from Luria this fall, didn’t miss the chance to get in front of the pro-gun crowd trying to pressure Virginia Beach into adopting a sanctuary measure.

“I guarantee you there are Republicans, independents, Democrats, people who aren’t politically active but want to protect their families and their property, and that is why they are here and you are seeing this across the commonwealth,” Taylor said, according to WTKR.

Farnsworth, however, says the polls aren’t with Republicans. “20 years ago, Democrats said almost nothing about guns because it was a political loser for a Democrat to talk about gun control. In today’s Virginia, polls show that talking about gun control is an asset to a Democratic candidate, not a detriment.”

One GOP consultant said on the condition of anonymity that the sanctuary push will be the end of the gun movement in Virginia. “This is why Republicans continue to lose middle class and suburban voters.”

The Wason for Public Policy released a poll earlier this month showing that 86% of Virginians support background checks on all gun sales while 73% supports red-flag laws. However, the numbers did drop significantly to 54% in support of an assault weapon ban.

“Republicans tried to make the state elections in 2019 a referendum on gun control, at least in some key swing districts,” said Farnsworth. “By shutting down the special session in less than two hours, they created at least as much of a target on their backs as the did on the backs of Democrats.”

Democrats flipped three seats in the House of Representatives in 2017. But Spanberger and Elaine Luria each won by less than 2 points. Luria and Spanberger are not involved in the gun control legislation at the state level whatsoever, but as partisan politics in D.C. continues to heat up over impeachment proceedings, Virginia’s Democratic delegation can expect to hear it on both fronts from their Republican counterparts on the campaign trail this year.

Tina Ramirez, one of the many Republican candidates looking to unseat Spanberger in November attended a meeting in Goochland earlier this month. “Tina supports 2nd Amendment Sanctuary Cities and spoke last week in favor of them at the Goochland County board of supervisor’s meeting.” Said Cindy Horne, a spokesperson for Ramirez. “Tina believes that we have the Second Amendment for a very important reason, to protect ourselves and our families, and that’s a right the government should never take away from us.”

Despite the backlash across the state from the gun activists, Democrats say they are going to continue to forge ahead with their plans for gun control legislation, noting that the majority of the commonwealth voted for them to do this exact thing.

“Virginians across the commonwealth on Nov. 5 voted for Democrats who ran on a gun violence prevention platform.” said Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico. “I’m confident that we will enact the responsible, common sense policies most Virginians have demanded and that will make our schools and public spaces safer.”

Tina Ramirez Pledges to Support Term Limits on Congress

September 30, 2019

Washington, DC – U.S. Term Limits (USTL), the leader in the non-partisan national movement to limit terms for elected officials, praises candidate Tina Ramirez, 2020 U.S. House candidate for Virginia (district 7), for signing the pledge for an amendment to term limit Congress. Ramirez is the first signer in this race. The primary election is scheduled for June 9, 2020.

U.S. Term Limits has the support of nearly 70 pledge signers in Congress. USTL President Philip Blumel commented on Ramirez’s pledge saying, “Tina’s support of term limits shows that there are individuals who are willing to put self-interest aside to follow the will of the people. America needs a Congress that will be served by citizen legislators, not career politicians.”

The U.S. Term Limits amendment pledge is provided to every announced candidate for federal office. It reads, “I pledge that as a member of Congress, I will cosponsor and vote for the U.S. Term Limits amendment of three (3) House terms and two (2) Senate terms and no longer limit.” The U.S. Term Limits constitutional amendment has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate by Senator Ted Cruz (SJR1) and the U.S. House by Representative Francis Rooney (HJR20).

Blumel noted, “We have seen a dramatic increase in supporters wanting term limits on Congress. More than 82% of Americans have rejected the career politician model and want to replace it with citizen leadership. The way to achieve that goal is through congressional term limits.”

According to a 2018 nationwide poll on term limits conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, term limits enjoy wide bipartisan support. McLaughlin’s analysis states, “Support for term limits is broad and strong across all political, geographic and demographic groups. An overwhelming 82% of voters approve of a constitutional amendment that will place term limits on members of Congress.”

Blumel concluded, “America is in trouble. Our career politicians have let the people down. It is time to return control of our nation to the people. It is time for a constitutional amendment limiting congressional terms.”

The term limits amendment resolutions would require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, and ratification by 38 states, in order to become part of the U.S. Constitution.

Congressional term limits is the one bipartisan issue supported by both President Trump and former President Obama.

View Ramirez’s signed pledge here.

Ramirez Stresses Faith, Human-Rights Experience in Bid to Replace Spanberger

By CLINT SCHEMMER The Culpeper Star Exponent Aug 18, 2019

In a campaign swing through Culpeper, Tina Ramirez gave Republicans a taste of what’s to come as she aims to oust first-term Democrat Abigail Spanberger from her 7th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Hispanic single mom told the Culpeper County Republican Committee on Saturday that she wants to bring her lifelong passion for service and devotion to conservative values to Washington.

The Midlothian resident said she got fed up several months ago with what she was hearing from the nation’s capital and decided to seek the GOP nomination. She is challenging the Henrico Democrat, who ousted Rep. Dave Brat by stressing her national security background, independence and civility.

“The reality is that we’re sitting with a woman in Congress who does not represent us. And she is not giving you a voice,” Ramirez told the Culpeper Republicans.

“Ninety-two percent of the time, Abigail Spanberger votes with Nancy Pelosi. Eighty-nine percent of the time, she votes with AOC. That does not represent the 7th District. … That does not represent Culpeper.”

Spanberger promised she would be an “independent voice,” but hasn’t measured up to that promise, Ramirez said.

The Republican’s campaign literature says she would defend conservative values in Congress, protect the sanctity of all human life, reform immigration and secure the southern border, make health care affordable for average families, and cut federal regulations for businesses.

“Tina is a mother and a Christian first, not a politician,” her brochure states.

Ramirez said she draws inspiration from her parents, who are second-generation descendants of Mexican and Czech immigrants. Her father founded a medical business near Richmond and her mother, one of eight children, managed a midwifery practice.

They instilled their values in her, she said.

“What makes America great is that dream of individual rights and faith,” Ramirez said.

She founded and is president of Hardwired, a Richmond nonprofit group that trains leaders globally in principles of religious freedom. Previously, Ramirez served as staff director of the House International Religious Freedom Caucus and is a former board member of The First Freedom Center in Richmond, a nonprofit that educates people about freedom of religion and conscience as proclaimed in Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

She said she has worked in more than 30 countries, including Iraq, Sudan, Niger and Burma, to spread concepts of religious freedom for all faiths. Ramirez is an editor and contributing author of “Human Rights in the United States: A Dictionary and Documents.”

“I want people abroad to be able to live with the liberty that we so easily take for granted here,” she said.

Ramirez said she worked on the Hobby Lobby case as it came before the U.S. Supreme Court, assisted the The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, worked for conservative members of Congress, and served as staff director of the House International Religious Freedom Caucus.

But now, she said she wants to serve Central Virginians.

“My sole purpose in being here is to serve the people of the 7th District whose voices are not heard and constituents, like myself, who do not feel represented by people like Abigail Spanberger, AOC, Nancy Pelosi and all the other Democrats that are moving us toward being a socialist country, that are are ripping away the freedom that I’ve been fighting for, in other countries, my entire life.”

Ramirez, 40, is the first candidate to seek the GOP nomination in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. It is her first bid for elective office.

Ramirez represents the kind of candidate that GOP leaders have said they need more of to halt the party’s losses in the suburbs: A highly educated Hispanic woman, and a mother.

Ramirez has a 4-year-old daughter, named Abigail.

Later Saturday, she met with the Susan Allen Republican Women’s Club in Orange County.

Speaking at Chesterfield Town Hall, Spanberger Says She Backs Congressional Request for Mueller Grand Jury Material

By Patrick Wilson | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Without taking a position on whether President Donald Trump should be impeached, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, said Sunday that she backs efforts by the House Judiciary Committee to get more facts in determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment.

Spanberger made her comments to a friendly audience of about 300 during a town hall meeting at Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County.

The committee, of which Spanberger is not a member, filed a petition in federal court Friday seeking to obtain secret grand jury material underlying former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller, who testified before Congress on Wednesday, found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, but did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.

The Friday move by the Judiciary Committee came at the beginning of a six-week summer recess. Spanberger will hold another town hall meeting Tuesday in Culpeper and Saturday in Powhatan County.

Mary Lib Morgan of Henrico County raised the impeachment question Sunday, asking Spanberger how her constituents could support her in making an effort to impeach Trump.

It was the second question of the town hall, following one about whether the U.S. had taken appropriate steps to prevent foreign election interference.

“That did not take long,” Spanberger quipped.

She said she considered the Judiciary Committee’s court fight a major turning point and had talked to members of the committee about it.

Spanberger, who flipped a longtime Republican district last November in beating former congressman Dave Brat, regularly speaks about bipartisanship.

Morgan followed up, noting that about 100 Democrats have called for starting the impeachment process.

“I’m a huge admirer of yours. … What can your constituents do to help provide you with cover?”

Spanberger said she backed the Judiciary Committee’s efforts to gather new information.

“You want to have every single fact available to you,” she said. The answer was enough to draw applause from the room.

Morgan said afterward that she was relieved to hear an answer that made her think Spanberger is getting closer to supporting an impeachment inquiry.

“I look forward to that time when her name is on the list of what are now about 100 congresspeople who have publicly made statements in support of beginning the impeachment proceedings,” Morgan said. “The reason I feel so strongly about this is because I think it goes beyond politics and into morals and ethics, and I think the president is morally bankrupt.”

Tina Ramirez, a human rights advocate and Republican from Chesterfield, in April announced a run for the congressional seat in 2020.

Ramirez, who attended Sunday’s meeting, said Spanberger evaded directly answering the impeachment question but in the end expressed support for the process moving forward.

“She needs to focus on the issues that matter, which are immigration and securing the borders, health care and jobs, and I think that that’s what the district cares about,” Ramirez said.

Of the impeachment inquiry, she said, “Most people in the district want Congress to move forward and stop wasting money on this political circus.”

Northern Virginia Rep. Don Beyer, D-8th, is alone in Virginia’s 11-member U.S. House delegation, consisting of seven Democrats and four Republicans, to have called for impeachment.

Early in the forum, referring to lawmakers who are holding bipartisan discussions on issues, Spanberger said, “There’s a lot of good work going on in Washington” and “I feel very strongly that we are moving in the right direction.”

In response to another question, however, about whether Republicans were acting in bad faith, she said, “I think we are better than what we have seen in recent years.”

Of the president, she said: “I am often disappointed by the things that he says.”

More GOP Women Want to Run for the House. but Why Now?

Roll Call, May 8th, 2019

Female Republicans are stepping up to run earlier than last cycle

Stephanie Bice is a Republican from a deeply conservative state that’s only sent three women to Congress. But the election of a record-breaking number of female freshmen to the House in 2018, all but one of them Democrats, helped her decide to run for the chamber herself.

“It was a signal to all women that politics isn’t just … a man’s world,” said the Oklahoma state senator, who recently announced her candidacy for the 5th District. “It shows that women have as much of an ability to win these seats. We just need to field the candidates.”

Bice and dozens of other female Republicans have either announced their candidacies or are moving toward running — more than the number of GOP women who were similarly engaged at this point in 2017.

“[It’s] exponentially more than last cycle,” said New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who was the first female head of recruitment at the House GOP campaign arm and helped recruit more than 100 women during the 2018 cycle. But most of them lost last year, and just 13 Republican women now serve in the House, compared to 89 Democrats.

“The biggest difference [this year] is candidates are getting in earlier,” said Rebecca Schuller, the executive director of Winning for Women, which helps elect female Republicans.

What’s exciting to Republicans who care about increasing diversity in Congress is that many of the women running this year are self-recruiting.

The reasons why vary from district to district, but what happened in 2018 is a big part of it.

Also watch: Here’s Carol Miller’s advice for GOP women thinking of running for office

Republicans are seeing more new faces because many of the old faces lost their seats in 2018.

Bice, for example, never would have run for Oklahoma’s 5th District before. It was already represented by a Republican. But Democrat Kendra Horn’s upset win last November now gives Bice an opening.

Of the net 40 seats Democrats gained in 2018, 31 of them backed President Donald Trump in 2016. That makes those districts ripe targets for Republicans.

About 25 Republican women are either already running or have been mentioned as serious candidates in open seats or as challengers to Democratic incumbents in 2020, according to numbers compiled by the Center for American Women and Politics. That’s up from about 14 at a similar point in 2017.

The National Republican Campaign Committee said it has engaged with about 135 women so far this year.

Not only have some of these women been inspired by seeing female Democrats run and win; they’re fired up that these new Democratic incumbents — whether it’s high-profile ones like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the women representing their own districts — don’t reflect their political views.

Two women have already announced campaigns against freshman Democrat Katie Hill in California’s 25th District, a race Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Likely Democratic.

“My kids are growing up, and I’m thinking about their future,” Lancaster City Council Member Angela Underwood-Jacobs told CQ Roll Call last month.

“It comes down to two things: the birth of my daughter and last year losing my mother to pancreatic cancer,” said nonprofit CEO Suzette Martinez Valladares, who criticized Hill for voting for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker.

Bice said she doesn’t accept that her district, which includes Oklahoma City and surrounding communities, is one of those suburban areas that are becoming more liberal.

“This is still a very conservative area,” she said of the district, which Trump carried by 14 points against Hillary Clinton. Inside Elections rates the race a Toss-up.

Running for office didn’t come naturally to Bice. She only ran for state office in 2014 at the prodding of a retiring state senator and family friend. Now, as a fourth-generation Oklahoman and pro-business conservative, she calls herself “a perfect fit” for the 5th District.

Virginia’s Tina Ramirez worked in and around Congress for much of her career, advising members on religion and human rights issues and helping found a nonprofit and the bipartisan Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus.

She didn’t see an opportunity to run for a seat herself until last November, when Democrat Abigail Spanberger unseated GOP Rep. Dave Brat in the 7th District.

“I knew my background and experience was unique,” she said, noting that national groups didn’t reach out to her until after she’d launched her campaign.

Normally at this point of the cycle, GOP women’s groups are eyeing districts where they might have a chance to recruit a female candidate — such as where a Republican man is retiring.

“I haven’t started recruiting yet,” said Julie Conway, the executive director of VIEW PAC, which supports GOP women. “Everybody that I’m currently talking to somehow was sent to me.”

What Conway is seeing from the Republican women who are raising their hands to run reinforces the conventional wisdom that men run to be someone and women run to solve problems.

“They’re not doing this because they ran for class president in kindergarten and this has been their trajectory,” Conway said. At the same time, it’s not as if they just woke up one morning and decided to run for Congress.

“Women don’t really do that,” Conway said. “They need to see evidence it works.”

The last few cycles, 2018 in particular, helped lay the groundwork for them.

The president was a drag on down-ballot Republicans in 2018.

Incumbents such as Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Mimi Walters of California and Mia Love of Utah all lost in places where Trump was unpopular.

So it’s counterintuitive that running in 2020 on the same ticket as a man who’s bragged about grabbing women’s genitals might actually be good for Republican women.

But Conway thinks it might be easier for women to distance themselves from Trump in 2020 since Republicans who don’t like the president can take their vote out on him directly instead of on congressional candidates.

The political implications of standing with Trump also depends on the district: In places where he is more popular, having his base turn out could also boost female GOP candidates.

While 2018 might have been a good year for women overall, it was bad for Republican women in the House, where their numbers dropped from 23 to 13.

But calling attention to that may have encouraged more GOP women to run.

“The fact that we rang the bell in a very public way and had colleagues be accountable to ringing that bell was a really important step,” said Stefanik, who stepped away from her NRCC role to play in primaries for women. The attention around the dearth of GOP women has also helped candidates get more media exposure this year.

But getting more women to run is only a first step. Primaries, especially in competitive seats, loom large, and have traditionally been where women candidacies ended.

That’s why Stefanik, Schuller and Conway are so excited that a woman made the runoff last week in the special primary election for an open, and strongly Republican, seat in North Carolina’s 3rd District. Pediatrician Joan Perry ran with backing from Winning for Women, Susan B. Anthony List and VIEW PAC.

The existence of these groups — and the fact that Winning for Women’s super PAC is now making six-figure independent expenditures — may also encourage more female Republicans to run because they see someone might have their back.

There’s another big reason Republican women are excited about Perry making it into the runoff in North Carolina: Electing a woman in a safe GOP seat is the best chance for the party to actually grow its numbers.

Conway’s biggest fear is that 2018 ushered in a cyclical pattern of women in competitive seats beating women from the other party.

“I would much rather take out random Democratic guys,” Conway said. “Because women work better with each other.”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.