Buckeye, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- The results of the NRA's most recent Board of Directors election are interesting from top to bottom.
The bad news for most of our readers is that unfortunately Adam Kraut didn't win a seat. There is still a chance he could win the 76th Director seat, which will be voted on at the Annual Meeting in Dallas though.
So if you are planning to attend the Annual Meeting and Exhibits, be sure to find the voting booth and cast your ballot for Adam.
At the top of the ticket was Ronnie Barrett garnering the most votes, which is no surprise at all. Barrett is a rock star in the gun world thanks to his .50 BMG rifles and other innovations. What was a surprise was newcomer Carrie Lightfoot coming in second, beating out long-serving director Wayne Anthony Ross who landed the third place position. Ross has been on the NRA Board since 1980, with only a year or two off in the early '90s. Fourth place went to another industry rock star, Duane Liptak, Executive Vice President of Magpul Industries. And world champion action shooter Julie Golob rounded out the top five.
NRA voters historically have an affinity for movie stars, politicians, industry executives, incumbents, and minorities – particularly women. They also seem to give added weight to candidates from Alaska over other states, so Barrett, Liptak, and Ross all fit expectations, and while it's no surprise that Lightfoot and Golob won seats, it is a surprise that they finished in the top five, especially the second-place finish for Lightfoot. It is very unusual for any newcomer to NRA elections to place so high in the voting unless they are a pretty well-known celebrity of some sort. While Carrie is something of a celebrity within her own circles, having founded The Well Armed Woman, with 363 chapters in 49 states, and some 10,500 individual members, a majority of those members probably aren't voting members of the NRA, so her high finish is a bit of a shocker. Then again, having 10,00 women rooting for you, even if they can't vote, has to help. Julie's top-five finish is also within reasonable expectations, though still somewhat surprising. She's pretty well known, and is a frequent contributor, guest, or subject in various firearms media. Her status as an Army veteran doesn't hurt either.
I was very tempted to endorse both Lightfoot and Golob, but felt they had a good chance of winning seats on their own, and wanted to focus my energy on trying to get Adam Kraut elected.
Women have been an important and steadily growing segment of the NRA Board since 1949 when champion rifle shooter Alice Bull was first elected. She served on the Board until her death in 1988, and led the way for the many female directors who followed her over the years, including two Presidents, and the current Second Vice President.
In all, 8 women were elected or reelected to the Board this year, which is pretty “progressive” for a stodgy, good ol' boys club.
And while that 30% representation for women is worth talking about, the real news in this election was the men who didn't, or almost didn't make the cut, including two recent past presidents who finished 25th and 26th, along with two other long-time Directors in the 23rd and 24th positions, and four more incumbents who failed to make the cut.
It's not unusual to see one or maybe two incumbents bumped off the board by newcomers, but to have four incumbents fail to make the cut – actually five when you realize that the 26th seat only came open after the election, with the untimely passing of Director R. Lee “Gunny” Ermey in April – hasn't happened since the current establishment quit publishing “Don't Vote For” lists to purge Neal Knox supporters from the Board.
This year's NRA board election results represent a quiet earthquake that probably has some of the establishment bosses looking over their shoulders.
But for the passing of the Gunny, Past President Ron Schmeitz would be off the Board, and his successor in the presidency, David Keene, would have barely earned a seat. While Schmeitz was not a high-profile president, Keene has been a very visible political player, both in and out of the NRA. Before moving up in the chairs at NRA, Keene was the Chairman of the American Conservative Union, host of the annual CPAC conference in Washington, and later was the Opinion Editor of the Washington Times. For him to trail in and barely win a seat is pretty embarrassing.
In positions 23 and 24 were incumbents David Coy and Joel Friedman, who have both been on the Board for about 20 years. Down in the also-rans were incumbents Herb Lanford, John Cushman, Grover Norquist, and Robert Wos. Lanford was first elected in 1986 – 32 years ago – and has held a seat almost every year since. Cushman has been on the Board since 1993, and this is the second year in a row that he has failed to make the cut.
Last year he beat Adam Kraut by 60-some votes at the Annual Meeting in Atlanta to win a 1-year seat.
Norquist has been an NRA Director for 18 years. He is a political insider who survived a recall effort two years ago, prompting the Board to push through a bylaw change to make recalls virtually impossible to pull off. Wos has served the shortest time of any of the losing incumbents, having been on the Board for only 15 years.
Some on and off the Board are placing the blame for the shake-up on NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. These insiders, who spoke on background, say that he has been loading “loyalists” onto the Board to guarantee his ability to pick his successor. My sources say that Wayne has insisted that the Nominating Committee include extra nominees to make it harder on the incumbents.
The problem with this theory is that the Board has long been loaded with “loyalists” who simply let Wayne have his way. Even though the Board is supposed to set policy and lay down guidance for Wayne and the other (ridiculously well-paid) staff, the fact is that decisions at NRA come down from the executive offices to the Board, and the Board rubber-stamps whatever they are told to. Wayne knows that his job is secure, but the members of the Board have no such security. They come up for reelection every three years, and they know that all it takes is a word from Wayne, and they won't be invited back.
It really is irritating and disappointing to see a Board of Directors with such stellar credentials and experience being herded and manipulated the way this board is, and failing to serve the members who elected them. From last year's bylaw amendments, which the Board unanimously approved, to the election of Carolyn Meadows – a wealthy Republican insider who has been on the NRA Board since 2003 – as Second Vice President, the Board receives instructions and follows them. Any questions or disagreements are only raised in hushed tones in back hallways. Any open challenge, or even hard question, is met with the suggestion that loyalty is lacking and that the Board needs to trust the staff.
That's not the way things are supposed to work.
LaPierre has made some serious missteps of late, on top of many other fumbles over the years, but no one on the Board is willing to challenge him or even criticize him in an open session. That's a serious problem. Maybe one of the new Board members will finally raise their voices and declare that the emperor has no clothes. Perhaps then some of the rest of the Board will wake from their stupor, recognize that truth, and begin acting like the strong, independent-minded people depicted in their election biographies. Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath.
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.