Click play for audio version of this story
Democrats in the hotly contested 8th district Assembly race want to know how Republican Jean Stanfield earned a 93% rating from the National Rifle Association.
“Voters in the 8th District deserve to know exactly how Jean Stanfield endeared herself so strongly to the gun lobby that she was endorsed with flying colors,” said Mark Natale, an Evesham attorney. “In the midst of this gun violence epidemic, an A rating from this disgusting organization needs to be explained. Since Jean stands with the NRA 93% of the time, she should be open and transparent with voters about exactly which policies she supports.”
The Stanfield campaign declined to release a copy of the NRA questionnaire, but the former Sheriff and Assistant Prosecutor pushed back on the idea that she is pro-gun.
“I am the only candidate in this race with law enforcement experience, the only candidate who fought to put people in jail for gun crimes, and the only candidate in this race who successfully organized a countywide gun buy-back program to get assault weapons off the street,” Stanfield said. “It’s a bipartisan record of keeping people safe that was praised by Democrats and Republicans alike.”
The NRA survey asks candidates if they back a list of rollbacks to New Jersey’s current gun restriction laws, including questions about the state’s ban on concealed weapons, repeal of the assault weapons ban, and a repeal of a recent law that restricts magazine capacity.
Without releasing her responses, it is impossible to know which restrictions Stanfield supports and those she does not.
Natale and his running mate, Gina LaPlaca, a lobbyist and former aide to ex-Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Bellmawr), cited a CBS News report that the number of mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019 – 283 – has outpaced the number of days in the year.
“8th District families like mine should be worried that Jean Stanfield is apparently a model legislator to protect the NRA’s interests in Trenton,” said LaPlaca. “The only question is how severely has she sold out the safety of our families and releasing her litmus test questionnaire is the only way she can be honest with voters.”
Stanfield cast herself as a Second Amendment supporter and said she welcomed the challenge of comparisons between her record and those of LaPlaca and Natale.
“I believe that law-abiding citizens should have the right to protect themselves and their families, and would gladly put my record on combating violence up against a Trenton lobbyist and her lawyer running mate who look the other way while their party bosses reward domestic abusers with taxpayer-funded jobs and political appointments,” Stanfield said.
Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport), a Navy SEAL seeking his second term, has a 73% NRA rating, according to Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan organization that tracks lawmakers’ ratings from various interest groups.
Stanfield, who served as sheriff for nearly eighteen years before retiring in May, defeated incumbent Joe Howarth (R-Evesham) in the June Republican primary.
Democrats hinted that they intend to make Stanfield’s position on gun issues a focus in the fall campaign.
“Gina and Mark have heard from countless families across the district about the fear that comes with sending their children to school every day,” said Mickey Quinn, spokesman for the campaign. “Those families deserve to know specifically how Jean Stanfield sold them out for a blood money endorsement.”
Democrats also plan to use guns as an issue against Peters.
“Voters must know whether Jean will govern in lockstep with her out-of-touch extremist running mate Ryan Peters, who hasn’t met a reasonable gun violence prevention measure he could support, from voting against a high capacity firearm ban to refusing to support increased legal penalties for gun traffickers,” Quinn said.