NC-03: About that Grass Roots NC endorsement / recommendation ….


Let me start off by saying I am a passionate defender of The Second Amendment.  (That ought to be beyond dispute to anyone who has read this site for an extended period.)


I tend to find myself in agreement with the folks at Grass Roots NC (GRNC) more often than not.  (I know that their leadership regularly reads, and sometimes comments, on  our site.)



GRNC issued some recommendations in the two special congressional races today.  I am not arguing necessarily with WHO they selected, but I am raising questions about the rationale they offered in making said selections.


Here’s how they explain their arrival at their candidate recommendations:


[…] What Candidate Listings Mean

GRNC’s “Remember in November” project estimates candidates’ views on “assault weapons,” concealed handguns, gun storage laws, gun rationing, other gun control and the Second Amendment.  THE EVALUATIONS HEREIN ARE NOT ENDORSEMENTS.  We issued surveys first to a control group of gun owners and then to candidates. Next, we measured how closely each candidate’s views and voting record (if available) agree with the control group.  Pay more attention to voting records than survey results unless, of course, you believe politicians never lie.


Sample Listing:

Name      Par/Dis   Survey   Vote   Other   Eval
Smith  J   R-15     95           92       95       ****

“PAR/DIS”: Candidate’s party and district. “D”=Democrat, “L”=Libertarian, “R”=Republican. Number is district number. Example: “J Smith,” above is a Republican from the 15th District.


“SURVEY”: The percentages listed depict agreement between a given candidate and our control group (e.g. an “80” under the “Survey” section means 80% of the candidate’s answers agreed with the Conservative Gun Owners).  “NR” means the candidate failed to return the survey.


“VOTE”: Votes are more accurate than surveys and should be given more attention in determining candidate stance. Where available, this column indicates how often candidates’ votes agree with the control group of gun owners (e.g. a “90” under “Voting Record” indicates candidate’s voting record agrees 90% of the time with what was desired by control group).


“OTHER”: Derived from evaluations by other gun groups, bill sponsorship, etc.


“EVAL”: The evaluation is not a rating. It estimates percentage of time candidate is expected to agree with the Conservative Gun Owners.  The maximum **** candidate tends to agree with conservative gun owners at least 90% of the time.


**** Expected to agree with conservative gun owners on at least 90% of gun issues
***  Expected to agree with conservative gun owners on at least 80% of gun issues
**  Expected to agree with conservative gun owners on at least 70% of gun issues
Expected to agree with conservative gun owners on at least 60% of gun issues
0  Expected to agree with conservative gun owners on less than 60% of gun issues or else candidate failed to return survey & insufficient information exists to make evaluation.  Is he or she hiding something?

Got it?

Okay, now HERE are the ratings / evaluations / recommendations for the 3ed district candidates:


Now here is GRNC’s recommendation statement for the Third Congressional District:

[…] 3rd Congressional District: First, we wish to note that there are numerous solid Second Amendment candidates in the race, and it is difficult to pick one. The candidate we DO NOT recommend is NC House Representative Greg Murphy, who has repeatedly voted against the interests of gun owners. In this race, GRNC-PVF has no choice but to stick with a proven pro-gun candidate who has acted as primary sponsor for a number of pro-gun bills. Accordingly,GRNC-PVF recommends MICHAEL SPECIALE for Congress in the 3rd District. […]


Okay, so they “recommend” Michael Speciale and make a point of slamming Greg Murphy.  But let’s go back and look at the group’s criteria for making recommendations.


  • “VOTE”: Votes are more accurate than surveys and should be given more attention in determining candidate stance.    Okay.  Only three of the candidates have a voting record that can be evaluated:  Shepard, Speciale and Murphy.   Apparently, the voting record is — in the words of Joe Biden —  a BFD.    According to GRNC’s own rating,  Speciale’s voting record (84) is rated worse than Murphy (88) and Shepard (93).  But Speciale gets their recommendation ????


  • “EVAL”: The evaluation is not a rating. It estimates percentage of time candidate is expected to agree with the Conservative Gun Owners.  The maximum **** candidate tends to agree with conservative gun owners at least 90% of the time.   According to GRNC’s own information, the higher your “star-rating,” the more in-agreement you are — in their opinion — gun owners.  All three legislators in this race earned four-star ratings.  But Speciale got the group’s recommendation.



This is certainly not a shill for Greg Murphy.  If you look at the numbers  — and consider them in terms of the standards laid out by GRNC — Phil Shepard should have come away with the recommendation / endorsement for the 2019 GOP nomination for the Third Congressional District.


I welcome Paul or anyone else with GRNC writing in to help explain / clarify this for me and our readers.  I think that would be vitally important for the credibility and integrity of this year’s and future years’ endorsements / recommendations by Grass Roots North Carolina.


8 thoughts on “NC-03: About that Grass Roots NC endorsement / recommendation ….

  1. GRNC does not make “endorsements”.

    You clearly show this in your copied text: THE EVALUATIONS HEREIN ARE NOT ENDORSEMENTS

    The RIN evaluations accurately reflect what is known – or what they wish to tell us – about candidate’s gun rights positions.

    Contrast this with the GRNC-PVF

    The GRNC Political Victory Fund

    By law, we are restricted from using organizational money to influence elections. The Grass Roots North Carolina Political Victory Fund is the tool we use to elect pro-gun lawmakers and throw out anti-gunners. The GRNC-PVF is North Carolina’s federally registered political action committee. We use it to make political donations and to run radio and newspaper ads for and against candidates. If you can help out with a small contribution, we will use it to elect candidates who will defend your rights.

    GRNC-PVF defeated anti-gun incumbents such as Senator Fountain Odom (2004), who was responsible for weakening the concealed handgun law and most recently replacing former House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman with pro-gun supporter Rayne Brown (2010) in NC’s 81 House District.

    GRNC-PVF ensured the election of Congressman Patrick McHenry, who says:

    “For years, Grass Roots North Carolina has stood on the front lines in the battle to preserve and defend our Second Amendment Rights. Gun owners have a trusted friend in GRNC and they have shown that trust time and time again at the polls on Election Day. I am proud to have earned GRNC’s support in the past and look forward to working with them in the future as we continue the fight for the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

    You see, GRNC-PVF can attack anti-gunners in ways GRNC legally can’t, such as:

    Professionally done radio spots to defeat anti-gun candidates and elect those who support your rights; and

    Hard-hitting mailings to many thousands of gun owners in a politician’s district, delivering a loud-and-clear message that no anti-gunner is safe.

    The problem is that election laws prohibit using membership funds for election action, meaning that we have to raise additional money for this last-ditch effort to take back our country.

  2. I will be happy to reply and you will see it is fully justified. Please send me a note telling me how to reply.

  3. Based on this explanation, GRNC can only recommend previously elected politicians with a track record of voting for the right bills.

    Your analysis is right on the money. They’re speaking out of both sides of their mouths. I’m not impressed (but I do agree with them that Medicaid Murphy is a bad choice).

  4. Thanks for offering the opportunity to explain Grass Roots North Carolina’s Second Amendment candidate evaluation and recommendation systems. Because they are more nuanced than those done by other organizations, they often cause confusion.

    What you are referring to as the criteria for “recommendations” are actually for GRNC “evaluations.” We actually run *two* candidate projects: “Remember in November” is an objective candidate *evaluation* system in which candidate survey scores, voting records, and bill sponsorship are entered into a database which estimates the percentage of time a given candidate can be expected to agree with a control group of conservative gun owners. Four-star (****) candidates are expected to agree at least 90% of the time, 3-star candidates at least 80% of the time, etc. As objective measures, we cannot adjust candidate evaluations, which are listed in up to 150,000 voter guides distributed in each election. Think of this as the “AAA Guide to Candidates.”

    By contrast, our federally registered political action committee, the GRNC Political Victory Fund, makes “recommendations for effective Second Amendment voting.” Recommendations are similar to what other organizations call “endorsements” but are *not* blanket endorsements of the candidate in question, but rather our analysis of which candidate in a given race is the best gun rights candidate. We don’t make “endorsements” because they have a nasty habit of coming back to bite. For example, a candidate we recommended in a state house race later made what many construed to be a racist comment. When newspapers claimed we had “endorsed” him, they were forced to backpedal when I pointed out that we had said absolutely nothing about the candidate’s stance on other issues.

    Please note that GRNC-PVF does not make recommendations in races where no candidate stands out, and that unlike “Remember in November,” it is our instrument for “express advocacy” for or against candidates, as allowed by law, typically using independent expenditures for mailings, robocalls, Internet advertising, and radio spots.

    This was a tough primary to call because, frankly, there are so many good Republican candidates, most of whom we would support in a General Election. However, we recommended Rep. Michael Speciale because he is one of the three most pro-gun legislators in the NC House.

    Voting records are a good, but not perfect measure of a candidate. No candidate evaluation system is flawless and, unfortunately, all votes are not created equal. Often, mediocre Republican candidates fall into the category I call “votes right when squeezed.” Moreover, party leaders are very adept at avoiding recorded votes. Consequently, we make a point of using procedural votes (e.g. motions to table, or to divide the question) in addition to what we call “substantive” votes – votes on bills or amendments themselves.

    Rep. Speciale didn’t know that when, in his first term, he voted against a series of motions to table anti-gun amendments to one of our bills made by then-Rules Chair Rep. Tim Moore. When I spoke to him afterward, he maintained that out of fairness, every legislator should get a floor vote on his amendments, however bad they may be. Since that time, Speciale has invariably voted *for* the interests of gun rights supporters many times on House Bills 562, 937 and 746. More importantly, he has acted a primary sponsor for numerous pro-gun bills, many of which I helped draft.

    By contrast, in 2017 Rep Murphy to advance a weakening amendment to House Bill 746, the permitless concealed carry bill which passed in the NC House but failed to get a hearing in the NC Senate. And while other candidates such as Rep. Phil Shepherd may have excellent voting records, they have not stuck their neck out for gun rights supporters – particularly by sponsoring pro-gun bills – the way Speciale has.

    Because “Remember in November” is an objective candidate evaluation system, I cannot change his early voting record, but GRNC-PVF *can* recognize Michael Speciale as the standout candidate in the 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.

    F. Paul Valone
    President, Grass Roots North Carolina
    Executive Director, Rights Watch International
    Radio host, Guns, Politics and Freedom

  5. Just noted a typo:
    “By contrast, in 2017 Rep Murphy to advance a weakening amendment to House Bill 746” should be “…Murphy voted to advance…”

  6. If anybody objectively looks at Paul Valone’s long, detailed response, you will have to be suspicious. First of all, Valones own words show that it is not that Mike Speciale is the standout candidate in support of gun rights. It instead shows that Mike Speciale is a standout supporter of Paul Valone and his group. He says in his response that Speciale let Valone help draft many bills. So is it shocking that he would endorse Speciale over Phil Shephard, whose voting record and stances clearly are superior to Speciale by the Grass Roots North Carolina’s own standards.
    Why don’t they just say, “we will endorse whoever lets Paul Valone write legislation”. Also, the groups strong recommendation for voters not to support Murphy says it was because he “has repeatedly voted against the interests of gun owners”. In his response, all he mentions is supporting an amendment to weaken House Bill 746, which Valone admits he helped draft. (What did the amendment do that was so against gun rights?) So Murphy’s voting record is better than Speciale, but because he supported an amendment that made a change to a bill Valone wrote, that constitutes repeatedly voting against the interests of gun owners.
    It looks to me that an objective observer would say that of the 3 elected officials running in the 3rd district, Shephard would be the choice for gun rights advocates, Murphy is nothing to worry about but not as strong as Shephard, and Speciale is a defender as well, but according the the standards of Paul Valone. As Conservatives, we should be consistent to call out hypocrisy, and unless Valone has an explanation that is more concise and fact based than the one he just gave, I call hypocrite.

    1. As a dues paying member of Grassroots North Carolina, I have always noted that they operate based on what is best for protecting the gun rights of North Carolinians.

      The simple fact here is that a legislator who is a leader for an issue, sponsoring legislation, is always going to be more valued than one who just sits and votes, even if they happen to vote right. And when a legislator tries to water down legislation on the issue, that raises big red flags as to that legislator.

      Michael Speciale sponsors legislation to protect gun rights, restrict abortion, and crack down on illegal immigration. Greg Murphy sponsors legislation to create new government social programs (Carolina Cares medicaid expansion and Food Deserts), and who could forget his strong support for the bill to gut Dale Folwell over the State Health Plan. Big difference.

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