As a Democrat representing rural Virginia in Congress, Tom Perriello called the National Rifle Association the “epitome of people-powered politics” and won its endorsement. Now running for governor, Perriello blasted the gun rights lobby as a “nut-job extremist organization.” Perriello has cast himself as a progressive fighter since he made an unexpected leap into the governor’s race last week, reports the Washington Post. He didn’t mince words when a caller to a radio show asked about his past support from the NRA. “Now they’ve really become a nut-job extremist organization … that is much more interested in representing the gunmakers than responsible gun owners,” Perriello said.
Perriello, who represented Virginia’s 5th Congressional District from 2009 to 2011, was running for reelection in 2010 when he received an A rating from the NRA and about $6,000 for his campaign. After losing his seat, Perriello grew critical of the group after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut. In an open letter to Democrats last week, he urged Virginians to “stand up to an unhinged gun lobby.” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said, “The fact that Tom Perriello thinks law-abiding citizens who value their constitutional right to self-protection are extremists shows how out of touch he is with Virginians.” Virginia Democrats vying for statewide office once treaded carefully around guns but have become vocal supporters of gun control. Gov. Terry McAuliffe bragged about his F rating from the NRA in his 2013 campaign.