An East Tennessean running for state senate is at odds with a powerful gun rights lobby as to whether he is misleading voters.
Rep. Frank Niceley is looking to win the state's newly formed District 8 seat, which includes Jefferson, Hawkins and Claiborne counties. The NRA Political Victory Fund has started to send mailers to NRA members in that district telling them Niceley is lying about the grade he received from the organization for his stance on guns.
"Gun owners and sportsmen in Tennessee Senate District 8 deserve honesty
when it comes to those who would represent them," said NRA-PVF
spokesperson Jacqueline Otto.
Niceley said that is not the case.
"They have accused me of lying, which is not true," he said.
More Information: NRA Endorsements
Niceley had previously been given an "A+" by the NRA Political Victory Fund. He said on July 23, the organization rated him with a "C".
The NRA Political Victory Fund said it might decrease Niceley's grade even further if determines the Tennessean's campaign is continuing to deceive voters.
According to Niceley, the NRA surprised his campaign as he had never earned a grade lower than an A in previous gradings. He said his campaign had produced thousands of fliers and numerous radio ads with the endorsement because they were not aware a change was coming.
"I've been in the legislature 12 of the last 24 years and I've voted for every gun bill we've had," Niceley said.
The Strawberry Plains representative said once his campaign learned of the grade change, it worked to immediately replace all old campaign literature. However, on Monday, a Hawkins County station told 10News it was still airing one of Niceley's old commercials. The candidate's campaign said it would soon ask that station to play another commercial instead.
Niceley, who has been a part of the NRA since he was 11, said he believes the Political Victory Fund decided to grade him differently on guns because of the stance he took on a controversial bill last legislative session.
Niceley, and other Republicans, decided to table an NRA-supported bill that would have allowed Tennesseans to store guns in their parked cars. He said he wanted more to time to think about the bill and how it would affect his constituency.
"The bill in question puts property rights puts property rights against gun rights," Niceley said. "And, when you draw the line between property rights and gun rights, you have to be real careful how you draw that line."
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According to Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, the NRA was displeased by that move. Ramsey said the NRA decided to downgrade Niceley and oppose Debra Maggart, another Republican representative from Henderson, after the decision.
"I think that's ridiculous, in the past we've been with them [the NRA], we'll continue to be with them," he said. "But, obviously again, they're using they're political clout where they can."
Ramsey said he had never seen the NRA lobby as heavily as it did the past legislative season.
"When Jimmy Naifeh was speaker of the house, and he was very anti-gun, very anti-second amendment, I never saw once them [the NRA] try to beat them," he said.
10News asked the NRA Political Victory Fund whether Niceley was downgraded because of his stance on the parking lots bill, but did not get a response.
Niceley told 10News he knows his new NRA grade will sway a few voters, but he said he still feels he can win the upcoming primary election Aug. 2.
"I voted right [on the parking lot bill], and I'm strong as anybody in the House and the Senate on the second amendment," Niceley said.
Niceley is competing against Republicans Jeffrey Brantley, Cynthia Bundren Jackson, and Hobart Rice for the Senate District 8 seat. Rice has the highest endorsement from the NRA Political Victory Fund with an AQ.
According to the group, an AQ is given to "A pro-gun candidate whose rating is based solely on the candidate's responses to the NRA-PVF Candidate Questionnaire and who does not have a voting record on Second Amendment issues."