The governor-elect handed me a letter as we were dining one December 1986 evening in Boise. Cecil Andrus had narrowly been returned to the governorship the previous month after an absence of ten years. The letter was from the regional representative of the National Rifle Association requesting a meeting at the governor’s earliest convenience.
Presumably, the NRA, recognized then as now as one of the most influential lobbying organization in the nation’s capital and in many state capitals, wanted a “kiss and make up” meeting with Andrus. Despite the incontestable fact that Andrus was a true sportsman, a fisherman and a hunter who went after his elk and his deer every fall, and filled the rest of the freezer with ducks, geese and pheasant, the NRA had endorsed Andrus’ opponent, the non-hunter, Lt. Governor David Leroy.
In responding to their endorsement questionnaire, Leroy had apparently gone right down the line endorsing every NRA position. Andrus, on the other hand, took exception and would not endorse the sale of “cop-killer” bullets or the elimination of waiting periods for background checks. Things he thought were just common-sense positions turned out to be litmus tests for purity. Leroy, despite not owning any firearms, therefore received the endorsement.
It was more than just an endorsement. My former business associate and the 1986 campaign press secretary detailed in his The Johnson Post blog this week the attempt by the NRA in the waning days of the campaign to tilt the election towards Leroy. Direct mail pieces as well as print and radio ads touting their endorsement of Leroy over Andrus suddenly mushroomed across the state. (more…)