GRNC President - Paul Valone

By F. Paul Valone

October 14, 2014



An open letter to the Honorable Michael Speciale, North Carolina House of Representatives


Dear Representative Speciale:


Having read your blog, I apparently owe you an apology. I thought I had explained our candidate evaluation system and how it derives the results it does, but it appears my explanation was inadequate. If you think I was “arrogant,” for that too I offer apology. It was not my intention.


Like evaluations for other candidates, yours resulted from two factors: First, Grass Roots North Carolina candidate evaluations are not “endorsements,” nor are they express advocacy. In short, GRNC itself does not advocate the election or defeat of candidates. Back in 1994, we looked at the shortcomings of subjective candidate “ratings” by the NRA and, seeing candidates – particularly incumbents – receiving undeserved “A” ratings and endorsements due to deals or simple incumbency, we decided to create an objective candidate evaluation system in which a voter can see how often a given candidate can be expected to agree with a control group of conservative gun owners, who themselves are administered our candidate survey. A four-star (****) candidate can be expected to agree at least 90% of the time, three-star (***), 80% of the time, etc.


Votes, survey scores, bill sponsorship and a measure we call “bill support” are added to a database which mathematically calculates the candidate’s evaluation. Unlike the NRA, GRNC does not make “deals” for evaluations. But this means the integrity of the system requires we apply standards consistently to all candidates, without exception. Think of it like grading a standardized test. So as much as I would like to make an exception for your votes against Rep. Tim Moore’s “motions to lay on the table” for gun control amendments to House Bill 937, doing so would undermine the integrity of GRNC candidate evaluations – a bedrock gun owners have come to trust for twenty years.


Second, I do not agree that procedural votes are less important than “substantive” votes for final passage of a bill. I think we would both agree that a legislator should be held accountable for his votes. And I think we would agree that procedural votes – particularly motions to table – are often used to avoid roll call votes on a bill, specifically to avoid putting politicians on the record for or against a certain measure thereby allowing them to avoid pain at election time.


Although we have enjoyed four years under a relatively pro-Second Amendment Republican legislature, my twenty years of directing GRNC have largely been spent opposing hostile chamber leadership. If we didn’t use procedural votes as candidate evaluation measures, anti-gun incumbents such as Mark Basnight, Joe Hackney, “Fountain” Odom, Hugh Holliman and others would have escaped scrutiny on the gun issue. Would you prefer that?


Moreover, procedural votes are indeed used to pass or stymie bills. The votes you cast could have enabled debate on gun control measures such as registration via mis-named “universal background checks,” limits on magazine capacity, mandatory gun storage requirements, and more. GRNC regards any vote to further passage of such measures as anti-gun. It is also why legislative positions we issue stipulate that we will track votes on bills “both procedural and substantive.”


I would also point to a flaw in your logic: If we accept your argument that procedural votes are not significant, why would you want to put your fellow pro-gun Republicans on record in a roll call vote which might subject them to punishment at election time by anti-gun zealots like billionaire Michael Bloomberg? Frankly, I thought Rep. Moore’s twelve motions to table were a master stroke which shut down hardcore leftists who intended to use roll call votes to punish conservatives.


I fully understand you didn’t vote against Rep. Moore’s motions because you support gun control. Clearly, you do not. I also understand you are a strong constitutionalist, for which I thank you.


You told me you voted against Rep. Moore’s motions from a sense of fairness, and I appreciate that too. Unfortunately, the gun owners of North Carolina did not make GRNC the dominant gun rights organization over the past twenty years because they want us to be “fair” to gun control zealots like Verla Insko and Paul Luebke, the sponsors of those amendments.


Gun owners want me to kill gun control, Rep. Speciale. And if I can’t kill it, they expect me to extract such a high price for ground ceded that it leaves the opposition with little taste for another battle. And battles they are, Rep. Speciale, because as I’m sure you agree, we are in a war with leftists over not only our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, but the future of our country.


The GRNC Political Victory Fund has absolutely no intention of trying to harm you politically. We won’t mail against you; we won’t do radio spots; we won’t do robocalls. But on the topic of giving our opposition “fairness” by not “stifling” their speech, please allow me to offer an analogy that might resonate with you.


As I recall, you are a veteran of the United States Marine Corps – a service for which we should all thank you. But I’d like to ask you a question you might want to answer as much for yourself as for me: During your many years of service, how many times did either you or your superior officers say, “We’re winning this battle, but we should let the enemy regroup and resupply so we can have a fair fight”?


I look forward to working with you in the upcoming session to restore your GRNC candidate evaluation to the level we both agree it should be.


Paul Valone

President, Grass Roots North Carolina