This week, one local race became a microcosmic representation of the national debate over gun control. Gun control, even with big money behind it, lost.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. defeated his Democratic primary opponent, Milwaukee police Lt. Chris Moews on Tuesday night in the county sheriff's race. Clarke won with 52 percent of the vote versus Moews's 48 percent—a margin of fewer than 5,000 votes.
Because there is no Republican candidate in the race, Clarke will almost certainly keep his office—much to the chagrin of gun-control supporters who spent heavily against the pro-gun Clarke. The Greater Wisconsin Committee spent $400,000 in advertising against Clarke. And Michael Bloomberg's antigun political action committee, Independence USA, spent $150,000 on advertising against Clarke.
In the past, Clarke has called for placing armed officers "in every school and public place in America," and has called arming citizens "the great equalizer" against criminals.
The National Rifle Association, which has dubbed Clarke a "rising star," sent out a fundraising plea to its members to support Clarke during the campaign.
From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
"Make no mistake: Sheriff Clarke is fighting the re-election battle of his life right now because he dared to stand on principle by standing up for you, me and the NRA," wrote Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.
Campaign finance reports show Clarke has received a large number of contributions from out of state.
As a public official, Clarke is something of an anomaly—he's a black Democrat who also happens to be extremely pro-gun. For pro-gun groups, his national profile could help to dispel the notion that all NRA members are conservative, Charlton Heston types.
Speaking at the National Rifle Association's conference in April, Clarke rebuked Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who had recently said he would add language to the Second Amendment to limit gun rights to public servants.
Clarke's response? "Keep your hands off our guns, dammit."
In a statement released Wednesday, the NRA praised Clarke's victory.
"Sheriff Clarke's outspoken commitment to the Second Amendment earned him the admiration of NRA members and gun owners nationwide," Cox wrote. "His dedication to freedom and the Constitution also earned him the wrath of gun control elitist Michael Bloomberg and his allies, who spent over half a million dollars (more money than both candidates in this race combined) trying to defeat Sheriff Clarke. But in the end, Bloomberg's money could not buy the hearts and minds of the voters."
And while Clarke may identify as a Democrat, he's enjoyed support from local conservative media. "Without the air support of talk radio, this would have been very difficult to do," Clarke said Tuesday.
Of course, Clarke is hardly the first pro-gun Democrat. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia once enjoyed an "A" rating from the NRA. But after he introduced a gun control bill in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, the NRA demoted him.
Clarke may just be the Democrat to take Manchin's place.