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News & Editorials
Bill Simon Wins CA GOP Primary

Bill Simon Wins California GOP Primary

In Spite of NRA's Opposition

March 6, 2002 In a stunning upset that defied conventional political wisdom, businessman Bill Simon soundly beat expected frontrunner, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan 49.4% to 31.4% in the GOP's California gubernatorial primary. NRA's endorsed candidate, Secretary of State Bill Jones, finished third with 17.0% of the vote. (For final tallies on all candidates and other stats, go here: 

The race, projected as a dead heat between Simon and Riordan in the polls preceding the election, was the subject of four stories on, where Jones was seen as a potential spoiler who would draw votes away from the conservative Simon, with a strong chance of handing the primary to the anti-gun Riordan. That this did not happen can be credited in part to gun owners not following NRA's recommendation and voting for Simon instead in fact, reported that, after its stories posted and generated interest on Internet mail lists, a prominent Southern California Members Council broke ranks with NRA management over their Jones endorsement, and recruited grassroots support for their candidate's rival, Simon.

KABA urged NRA to back Simon, to ask Jones to release them from their endorsement. We looked at the polls and it clearly made no sense to continue backing someone who could not win. That's when we decided to plead with Jones to step down, to not split the conservative vote in favor of Riordan.

We made it clear that our main interest was to get a horse in the governor's race. Had that horse been Jones, we would have just as strongly urged Simon to step away. But the numbers approaching the primary made it clear that Jones was not a contender and with Riordan's projected strength, he could have very well been a spoiler.

We commended NRA on wanting to stay loyal to its preferred candidate, but we also reminded them that their first loyalty necessarily had to be to their members' Second Amendment rights and to gamble with these was irresponsible.

That NRA political coordinators could be so out of touch with the majority of California conservatives, including gun owners and their own membership, prompts speculation as to their future effectiveness in California politics. Clearly, when they can't even marshal their own contacts to support their chosen candidate, something must change if they wish to appear a credible force in the state. That the much smaller Gun Owners of California and a 2-year-old internet-based organization should be more in touch with gun owners than the mighty NRA should be a wakeup call to the beltway managers and a clear warning that relevance does not come from centralized control, but from being receptive to, in touch with and empowering of the principled will of activist gun owners.

"Not invented here" no longer works, NRA management. We now have a shot for the governor's race no thanks to you.

We look forward to NRA support for Bill Simon in the upcoming race. We also hope they understand that they do not hold a monopoly on political credibility any more grassroots activists and a solid candidate have done it without them and even in spite of their opposition. They will not have exclusive access to the candidate they refused to back, nor will they be the only voice he hears.

Support Bill Simon for governor of the State of California.


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The gun-control movement is driven by raw emotion. Facts are irrelevant. Logic is spurned. Utter nonsense is solemnly intoned. It's little wonder that our most emotive president has made gun control his signature domestic issue. Don Feder

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