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Kevin Raye Earns NRA Endorsement
05/30/2014 07:44 PM ET   Reported By: Jay Field

There's word today of a key endoresment in Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District -- less than two weeks before Election Day. The National Rifle Association says it's backing Kevin Raye in his race against Bruce Poliquin. Political observers in Maine say it's rare for the NRA to endorse candidates in primaries. The organization's backing will likely give Raye a boost in what'd expected to be a low turnout election, in a district where voters strongly back the right to bear arms.

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Kevin Raye and his campaign team learned of the NRA endorsment early this morning. Throughout his four terms in the Maine Senate, Raye consistently earned "A" ratings from the powerful, gun owners rights group.

"We are very excited about getting it. We were in touch with the NRA today to confirm it," Mike Leavitt, spokesman for the Raye campaign, said. Leavitt has worked on many Congressional campaigns and has paid close attention to process the NRA goes through, as it decides whether to endorse a candidate.

"Historically, the NRA has gone through a very rigorous vetting of each candidate and looked at their voting records and various different statements they've made in support of the second amendment," he said.

But just because a candidate meets all of the NRA's specs, doesn't necessarily mean they're destined to get the group's official blessing, especially in a primary.

"Rare for the NRA to endorse in a Republican primary," Leavitt said.

Dan Demeritt worked on Paul LePage's campaign four years ago and later served as the governor's communications director.

"I think it's a big deal for Kevin Raye -- in that it puts to rest any question for undecided voters on the issue of gun ownership and second amendment rights," Demeritt said.

In the 2nd Congressional District, the right to bear arms is sacrosanct. Mark Brewer is a professor of political science at the University of Maine at Orono.

"Maine's 2nd Congressional District is relatively rural. It has a high percentage of gun owners. A big part of its economy has to do with hunting and other outdoor sports."

Turnout on June 10th, notes Brewer, is likely to be low, so, "anything that might possibly make a difference -- in terms of moving that turnout up or down -- it certainly has to be something you pay attention to."

And an NRA endorsement, says Brewer, may be the sort of event that could tip a close, low turnout election in Raye's favor.

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