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NRA official tells W.Va. Republicans to 'work four times as hard' to win in November

May 03, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A leading member of the National Rifle Association's board in Martinsburg on Saturday said Republican Party leaders need to stop "wringing their hands in Washington" and engage their constituents to be successful in the general election in November.

"We just have to work four times as hard ... and talk to five times as many people," NRA second vice president David A. Keene told about 150 gathered for the Berkeley County Republican Club's annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

The dinner at Bethel Assembly of God Church attracted nearly every Republican candidate seeking a statewide office and a few Democratic candidates and elected officeholders, too.

Guests paid $30 a plate for the dinner, which was preceded by a reception at the home of Berkeley County Commission President Steven C. Teufel and his wife, Mary, in Martinsburg.

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Before hearing remarks by Keene and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, Teufel welcomed those who traveled from out of town and managed to throw a few political jabs at Democratic U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley.

He recognized the local elected officials attending, including 23rd Judicial Circuit judges Christopher C. Wilkes and Gina Groh, a Democrat; state Sen. John Yoder, R-Jefferson, Dels. Walter Duke, John Overington and Crag Blair; Magistrate JoAnn Overington; Assessor Preston Gooden; and Democrat Virginia M. Sine, the county's circuit clerk.

Overington introduced Keene, who also is chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Before his speech, Keene said Sen. John McCain, the Republican's presumptive presidential nominee, was "generally good" on stances he's taken on the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.

Yet the advocacy agency remains concerned about McCain's support of legislation to close a loophole that would have affected an individual's ability to sell a gun to another individual and the Arizona senator's support of campaign finance limitations.

"The perfect candidate doesn't exist," Keene said of the group's choices in this year's election.

He acknowledged the NRA was supportive of Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in the Iowa Caucuses because of his strong support of gun rights.

"Obviously, as compared to Obama and Hillary Clinton, he's the only one we would consider (endorsing)," Keene said.

Before the event, Capito said she thinks that Republicans statewide are "pretty much" united in support of McCain, and West Virginia could be "critical again" in the presidential election.

Republican Club President Joseph A. De Soto predicted McCain would win West Virginia in November and "certainly carry the Panhandle."

"This is NRA country -- this is conservative country," said De Soto, who later conceded that a Panhandle visit by McCain was critical to shoring up what he described as a Republican stronghold in West Virginia.

"He has to, if he wants to carry West Virginia," De Soto said.

The appearances Saturday of all but one Republican candidate for a statewide office, including Beth Walker, Russ Weeks, Hiram Lewis, Dan Greear, Charles Minimah and Mike Teets, confirmed that, he added.

"If you're a Republican, you have to show up for this," De Soto said.

Only Secretary of State candidate Lawrence T. Beckerle was absent. Dinner organizers said he was unable to attend.

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