Virginia gun rights group stops Sturtevant cold

With elections less a week away, one hotly contested Virginia election has taken a strange turn into the gun issue, with a prominent gun rights activist denying he has endorsed a Republican state senate candidate.

Glen Sturtevant got a rebuke from Virginia Citizens Defense League president Philip Van Cleave Tuesday morning. In an email to the league's list, Van Cleave wrote that the Sturtevant campaign is falsely claiming he has endorsed the Republican.

Van Cleave said several of the group's members had told him Sturtevant campaign manager Matthew Brown "has been telling gun owners that I have personally endorsed Sturtevant."

"I do not give personal endorsements," Van Cleave wrote, adding that until Sturtevant returns a survey the group sends to all legislative candidates, the group's political action committee "cannot and will not endorse him."

Van Cleave urged his members to contact the Sturtevant campaign and tell the candidate to "Stop saying that the VCDL President has endorsed him."

Sturtevant campaign manager Matthew Brown told AMI Newswire that the campaign had no comment on Van Cleave's email. The National Rifle Association has endorsed Sturtevant and has made more than $65,000 in independent expenditures to support him.

The 10th district race has become a focus in the final days of the 2015 campaign. The open seat race ā€” between Sturtevant, a Richmond School Board member, Democrat Dan Gecker, a Chesterfield County supervisor, and two other candidates ā€” gained national attention when Everytown for Gun Safety, a group founded and partially funded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, said it would spend up to $700,000 on advertising in support of Gecker's candidacy.

According to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, Everytown for Gun Safety has so far made over $583,000 of in-kind contributions to the Gecker campaign.

Virginia, one of only four states with elections coming up next month, will be an early test case for the Democratic Party's new emphasis on gun control as an election issue.

Campaign ads in the commonwealth call out various Republican candidates for being close to the "gun lobby." Andy Parker, the father of a slain Roanoke TV reporter who has become a prominent gun-control activist, made headlines this week by posting a Facebook message directed to state Sen. William M. Stanley Jr. Stanley, a Franklin Republican, considered the message threatening enough to merit notifying local police. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who hopes to flip the state senate to a Democratic majority, recently announced several executive actions aimed at stricter gun enforcement.