By Jeff Knox
(May 4, 2018) The results of the NRA’s most recent Board of Directors election are interesting from top to bottom.
The bad news for most of our readers is that unfortunately Adam Kraut didn’t win a seat. There is still a chance he could win the 76th Director seat, which will be voted on at the Annual Meeting in Dallas though, so if you are planning to attend the Annual Meeting and Exhibits, be sure to find the voting booth and cast your ballot for Adam.
At the top of the ticket was Ronnie Barrett garnering the most votes, which is no surprise at all. Barrett is a rock star in the gun world thanks to his .50 BMG rifles and other innovations. What was a surprise was newcomer Carrie Lightfoot coming in second, beating out long-serving director Wayne Anthony Ross who landed the third place position. Ross has been on the NRA Board since 1980, with only a year or two off in the early ’90s. Fourth place went to another industry rock star, Duane Liptak, Executive Vice President of Magpul Industries. And world champion action shooter Julie Golob rounded out the top five.
NRA voters historically have an affinity for movie stars, politicians, industry executives, incumbents, and minorities – particularly women. They also seem to give added weight to candidates from Alaska over other states, so Barrett, Liptak, and Ross all fit expectations, and while it’s no surprise that Lightfoot and Golob won seats, it is a surprise that they finished in the top five, especially the second-place finish for Lightfoot. It is very unusual for any newcomer to NRA elections to place so high in the voting unless they are a pretty well-known celebrity of some sort. While Carrie is something of a celebrity within her own circles, having founded The Well Armed Woman, with 363 chapters in 49 states, and some 10,500 individual members, a majority of those members probably aren’t voting members of the NRA, so her high finish is a bit of a shocker. Then again, having 10,00 women rooting for you, even if they can’t vote, has to help. Julie’s top-five finish is also not especially surprising. She’s pretty well known, and is a frequent contributor, guest, or subject in various firearms media. Her status as an Army veteran doesn’t hurt either.
I was very tempted to endorse both Lightfoot and Golob, but felt they had a good chance of winning seats on their own, and wanted to focus my energy on getting Adam Kraut elected.
Historically women have tended to do well in NRA elections, beginning with prominent competitive shooter Alice Bull, who served on the Board from 1949 to 1988, and continuing with a number of female directors over the years, including two female Presidents, and a current female Second Vice President. The predominately male membership of the NRA tends to lend a bit of extra support to female Board candidates, as long as they have the experience to support their ambition.
Last year a bona fide female shooting celebrity, six-time Olympic Medalist Kim Rhode, barely made the cut, being elected to a 1-year term that opened up due to the death of a sitting director. That was initially pretty surprising, but closer analysis showed that Kim’s resume’ was a little thin on the activism and education side. This year, with a year of NRA Board participation and promotion to bolster her bio, Kim came in a comfortable, and respectable 11th place, just behind Bob Nosler of Nosler Bullets fame, and a couple of positions ahead of long-time director and competitive shooter Edie Fleeman.
In all, 8 women were elected or reelected to the Board this year, which is pretty “progressive” for a stodgy, good ol’ boys club. And while that 30% representation for women is worth talking about, the real news in this election came at the bottom of the ticket where we find two past presidents barely making the cut, with two other long-time directors just ahead of them, and four other long-time incumbents losing their seats.
It’s not unusual to see an incumbent or two bumped off the board by newcomers, but to have four incumbents fail to make the cut, and two past presidents finish 25th and 26th in a race for 26 seats. That’s a quiet earthquake that probably has the establishment bosses looking over their shoulders.
Past President Ron Schmeitz actually failed to make the cut, but with the passing of R. Lee “Gunny” Ermey in April, a two-year seat came open. Former President David Keene beat out Schmeitz for the 25th seat, and Schmeitz will finish the two remaining years of Ermey’s term. While Schmeitz has had a pretty low profile at NRA over the years, Keene has been a very visible political player, both in and out of the NRA. Before moving up in the chairs at NRA, Keene was the Chairman of the American Conservative Union, host of the annual CPAC conference in Washington, and later was the Opinion Editor of the Washington Times. For him to trail in and barely win a seat is pretty embarrassing.
In positions 23 and 24 were incumbents David Coy and Joel Friedman, and down in the also-rans were incumbents John Cushman – who failed to make the cut last year, but then beat Adam Kraut by 60-some votes at the Annual Meeting in Atlanta to win a 1-year seat – Grover Norquist – who survived a recall effort a couple of years ago – Robert Wos, and Herb Lanford.
Some on and off the Board are placing the blame for the shake-up on NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. These insiders, who spoke on background, say that he has been loading “loyalists” onto the Board so he can be sure he can pick his successor. My sources say that Wayne has insisted that the Nominating Committee include extra nominees to make it harder on the incumbents.
The problem with this theory is that the Board has long been loaded with “loyalists” who simply let Wayne have his way. Even though the Board is supposed to set policy and lay down guidance for Wayne and the other (ridiculously well-paid) staff, the fact is that decisions at NRA come down from the executive offices to the Board, and the Board rubber-stamps whatever they are told to. Wayne knows that his job is secure, but the members of the Board have no such security. They come up for reelection every three years, and they know that all it takes is a word from Wayne, and they won’t be invited back.
It really is irritating to see a Board of Directors with such stellar credentials and experience being herded and manipulated the way this board is, and failing to serve the members who elected them. From last year’s bylaw amendments, which the Board unanimously approved, to the election of Carolyn Meadows, who few Directors believe should be in line for the Presidency, this Board fails to do their job
LaPierre has made some serious missteps of late, on top of many other fumbles over the years, but no one on the Board is willing to challenge him or even criticize him in an open session. That’s a serious problem. Maybe one of the new Board members will finally raise their voices and declare that the emperor has no clothes, and some of the rest of the Board will wake from their stupor and recognize that as the truth. Maybe, but I’m not holding my breath.