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NRA Strongly Backs Simon

Politics: Group vows to defeat Davis, who has signed gun-control legislation. Its endorsement is expected to help the Republican with conservatives.


The National Rifle Assn. on Monday announced its endorsement of Republican Bill Simon Jr. for governor, saying "we will do everything we can" to defeat the Democratic incumbent, Gray Davis.

The NRA endorsement could help Simon solidify his conservative base, but it complicates his efforts to appeal to moderates--particularly women and suburbanites--whose votes he needs to beat Davis.

The governor has showcased his support for gun control in television ads that depict Simon as too conservative for mainstream Californians. Davis angered the NRA last week by signing a law that removes gun manufacturers' liability protection.

Chris Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist, said Davis "has handled the 2nd Amendment about as well as he's handled California's energy crisis."

"Gray Davis does not trust California's hunters, sportsmen and law-abiding gun owners to protect themselves and their loved ones," Cox said. "What Gray Davis has demonstrated is his utter disregard for common sense."

The gun liability legislation, he said, "jeopardizes a legitimate American industry by holding them responsible for the criminal acts of those that ought to be incarcerated."

Cox declined to say how much money the NRA might put into Simon's campaign. "We will certainly do everything we can to communicate to our members that Gray Davis is probably the worst governor in the country when it comes to defending their 2nd Amendment freedoms," he said.

Simon reiterated his opposition to gun control in an interview Monday morning on a conservative radio talk show on KRLA-AM 870 in Los Angeles.

"I think we have enough gun laws, and I think we should have a moratorium on new gun legislation," Simon said. "What we ought to be doing is enforcing our gun laws."

The Simon campaign welcomed the NRA endorsement.

"We're pleased that a group that permits safe use of firearms supports us," campaign spokesman Mark Miner said.

Davis spokesman Roger Salazar said, "Bill Simon ending up in the hip holster of the NRA underscores how out of step he is with Californians."

The NRA announcement came on a day when Simon was emphasizing tax cuts and other conservative themes at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.

In a speech to nearly 200 supporters, he renewed his pledge to cut capital gains taxes and roll back state regulations that apply to the timber, agriculture and home-building industries.

Simon also accused Davis of undermining California's economy by hitting employers with higher costs for electricity and for insurance to cover workers injured on the job.

Davis campaign spokesman Gabriel Sanchez denied that there has been any "mass exodus of businesses leaving the state," saying that 900,000 jobs have been created in California since the governor took office.

For his part, Davis released three new television ads Monday.

Two of them promote the governor's record on crime, health care and other issues. The third, the latest in a series of Davis spots that question Simon's record as an investment banker, says that the U.S. Justice Department was "suing Simon's company for defrauding the Postal Service."

"Bill Simon: If we can't trust his business practices, how can we trust him in the governor's office?" a narrator asks.

The ad refers to a federal government lawsuit against Pacific Precision Metals Inc., a company owned by William E. Simon & Sons, the candidate's family investment firm.

Simon said he had not seen the ad, but called it "just another lie by Gray Davis."

He said his firm had invested in Pacific Precision Metals, but "I had no personal involvement myself. Neither myself nor our firm are being investigated."

"It's about time we start talking about what the citizens of California really want to hear about," Simon said. "And that's his track record and my vision. His track record is failed."

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