Here’s a scenario that keeps Capt. Mark Kelly up at night.
After all the votes are counted, Republicans win 218 seats in the House and Democrats have 217 seats. And Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton), boosted by the endorsement of Gifford PAC, the gun control group he runs with his wife, Gabby Giffords, gets re-elected by just one half of one percent. Lance’s win keeps Republicans in control during the second two years of Donald Trump’s term.
“I think about that every night,” Kelly told the New Jersey Globe. “That is certainly an issue, but that’s not my job. My job and Gabby’s job is to elect people who are good on this issue.”
Kelly, a former astronaut who grew up in West Orange, defended his endorsement of Lance, a five-term Republican who took campaign cash from the National Rifle Association in 2016.
“We’re a bipartisan organization and both those guys have supported our legislation and have opposed the legislation of the National Rifle Association,” Kelly said today while campaigning for Democrat Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey’s 11th district. “For long-term change, we really need as a nation to get both Democrats and Republicans to not be in the pocket of the gun lobby and to do what’s best for their communities.”
Lance is facing a tough race against Democrat Tom Malinowski, a former Assistant U.S. Secretary of State and a strong supporter of gun control. Malinowski has made Lance’s record on gun safety an issue in his 7th district House race.
Giffords PAC has also endorsed nineteen-term Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) for re-election in the 4th district.
“We’ve endorsed three Republican candidates for the House around the country, two of them happen to be here in New Jersey,” said Kelly “We’re constantly looking for Republicans to endorse out there.”
Smith’s Democratic opponent, Josh Welle, slapped the Giffords PAC for endorsing the GOP incumbent.
“It’s just another PAC endorsement that is a by-product of incumbency,” Welle said at a gun control press conference in Wall on Thursday. “They made their decision based on a political agenda. Voters will not be dictated to by endorsements.”
Still, Giffords and Kelly, on a six-state campaign tour for seven Democratic candidates — all veterans — chose to visit New Jersey on behalf of Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot and former federal prosecutor.
“I can guarantee you if we elect Mikie and put the House of Representatives in the hands of the what I think of as the more responsible party, that will really change,” Kelly said. “Veterans are problem solvers.”
Sherrill defended her acceptance of campaign contributions from Kirkland & Ellis, a law firm where she once worked and which has represented the NRA.
“I do have a lot of friends because I did work at Kirkland & Ellis,” Sherrill said. “I did not work on any gun legislation or have a client that was involved with gun legislation. That’s a large international law firm that works on many, many issues.”