Don’t Underestimate the Power of Being a Sportsman

If memory serves me correctly it was back in 1982 when soon-to-be Governor Rudy Perpich defeated his opponent Warren Spannaus in the DFL Primary Election. At the time, Perpich, who previously served as Minnesota Governor, was attempting to make a come-back for the seat after a several year absence. He did not have his party’s endorsement, he was not even favored to win…but that election forever changed the way politicians viewed sportsmen in Minnesota.

The sportsman base became so mobilized that the word went out to “Dump Spannaus.” This short message appeared on bumper stickers, flyers, billboards and other high-profile locations and everyone knew who was behind the effort—SPORTSMEN! At the time Spannaus was Minnesota’s Attorney General and, let’s suffice it to say, had demonstrated that he was not good for gun owners and those with sporting interests.

The effort was simple…in Minnesota during the primary elections you must declare yourself either a Republican or a Democrat and vote for your candidates accordingly to narrow down the field. This particular year, sportsmen were being urged to cross party lines (if they were Republican) to defeat the DFL endorsed candidate, Spannaus. And defeat him they did…much to the chagrin of the DFL party their support eventually had to rally around a candidate they did not prefer (Perpich) for the upcoming general election. In effect, most experts will agree it was the Minnesota sportsman who had the most influence on the election that particular year.

Ever since that historic election event very few candidates in Minnesota now disregard the sportsmen base of voters. Certainly some court hunters and fishermen more sincerely, but most political wannabees will at least give some sort of lip service professing they are for gun ownership, hunting, and the plight of those of us who truly enjoy the out-of-doors.


Is it possible the upcoming election could also be historic nationally much like we experienced back in 1982 here in Minnesota?

Certainly there are two contrasting individuals in our current presidential race. George W. Bush has time and time again demonstrated that he is one of us by spending time hunting and fishing (even when it was not politically advantageous to do so). On the other hand, John Kerry has attempted to be one of us when it was advantageous for him. His description of time spent deer hunting is down-right hilarious, if it wasn’t scary with the stark reality of what his lip-service could potentially mean.

As we approach the waning moments of this important election year I applaud the efforts of the National Rifle Association attempting to stir the sportsman’s base. Check out this ad that is now appearing on billboards in over 10 key states (swing states):


Here are some key points to remember:
• Even though the NRA only has 4 million members, about 95% of those members vote. That’s almost twice the national average for most other membership voting blocks giving the NRA’s voice about twice the power.
• Also, polls have shown there are another 14 million sportsmen who are not actually paid members with the NRA, but think they are. Those same polls state that 28 million sportsmen are affiliated with a shooting or hunting club that is NRA-affiliated.
• Before Election Day the NRA is planning to send out over 15,000,000 pieces of mail to members and non-members alike…attempting to move the base.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Even Kerry literature put out by some of his strongest allies—the labor unions—have listed one of his virtues as “Supports protecting our right to own a gun.”

Makes you wonder…if a labor union would put this virtue at the TOP of their list…even this political activist group recognizes (and fears) the power of the sportsman during the 2004 Presidential campaign.

NOTE: To read more on these facts and figures check out George Will’s recent column. Also, I should point out that I am NOT a member of the NRA, but I do consider myself to be part of the 14 million members who “think they are.”

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.