U.S. Rep. Travis Childers is under attack from a Washington, D.C., advocacy group angered over his push to overturn its local gun-control law.
“We have a local council and a mayor, and they get to decide issues like this,” said Ilhir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote, a tax-exempt group focused on full voting representation in Congress for the District of Columbia.
The group, which isn’t a D.C. spokesman but gets funding from its government, paid for newspaper and website ads Wednesday that facetiously ask, “Travis Childers for DC Mayor?”
The message is aimed at his constituents, telling them he should tend to their business and leave D.C. alone.
Zherka insists DC Vote has no connection to any candidates who oppose Childers’ re-election bid on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Childers’ campaign shot back, calling DC Vote a “radical anti-gun group,” and said he will not “back down from this fight.”
Zherka was quick to say his group “doesn’t have a gun position.”
“We just believe local people ought to decide local issues.”
The dispute began when Childers, a Democrat from Booneville, sponsored House Bill 5162, which seeks to allow D.C. residents to bear arms after its local government banned guns.
He has introduced the bill twice, and Zherka claims D.C.’s legislation for full representation and citizen voting rights is being held hostage in the House until the gun bill passes.
Morgan Baldwin, campaign spokesman for Childers’ main opponent, Republican nominee Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo, said about the conflict, “If this group has a problem with Childers, just wait until Sen. Nunnelee gets to Washington.
“Not only will he vigorously support the Second Amendment, he will also vote for a speaker of the House who will advance a pro-gun agenda.”
Monday, Childers gained the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
The ads ran in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, the Columbus Commercial Dispatch and the Daily Corinthian. Ads also ran on the websites of the Journal, Corinthian and Memphis Commercial Appeal.
The ad urged readers to call Childers’ Washington office and tell him that if he wants to control D.C.’s laws, he should run for its mayor. They also are urged callers to tell him to drop his sponsorship of HB 5162 and let D.C. officials and residents make their own decisions about their gun laws.
They also featured a “doctored” photo of Childers, wearing a straw hat and monocle with a cigar between his lips and a lapel pin saying “For DC Mayor.”
Childers countered, saying that it’s unconstitutional to deny U.S. citizens the right to bear arms and that if D.C. gets away with it, “What’s to stop it from happening right here in north Mississippi?”
His campaign also tried to connect the ads with Nunnelee, who reportedly was in Washington last week.
An e-mail blast from DC Vote said the push against Childers is aimed at reminding him and other members of Congress to “focus on the issues affecting their states rather than interfering in D.C.’s local politics.”
Longtime Mississippi and national political observer Joe B. Atkins, a University of Mississippi journalism professor, said DC Vote’s tactics and others like them have cropped up in Mississippi elections in recent years.
“These ads simply deepen the public cynicism about politics in general,” he said. “There’s no real debate or search for truth here, nothing to enlighten us about the candidates or real issues, just a stab in the dark, hoping to land a blow that might stick.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal