One Democrat's unremarkable flip-flop on a national gun registry

This race probably won’t draw too much national attention, but New York’s 23rd Congressional District has revealed a rather interesting election strategy by the Democrat who is attempting to unseat Republican Tom Reed. (Disclosure: I campaigned with Reed a couple of times in 2010 and 2012 but never worked for him.) The Dems selected Dr. Tracy Mitrano, a professor of law and communications, in the primary this summer. It was a crowded primary field and everyone had to stake out their progressive bona fides early on. As part of that effort, Mitrano went on record saying that she supported a national gun registry so the public could keep tabs on everyone in the neighborhood who owned guns. (Of course, such a registry only covers those who purchase their guns legally and pass a background check, not criminals who shop on the black or gray markets.)

Fair enough, Madam. If that’s your position and you present it to the voters, no problem whatsoever. But a funny thing happened after Mitrano won the primary and entered the battlefield with Tom Reed heading into the general election. As reported at the Free Beacon this week, she no longer supports a gun registry and admits that she’s flipped her position 180 degrees. How did that happen? She’s not used to speaking on camera… or something.

Tracy Mitrano, who is running against Republican congressman Tom Reed, said she had supported the registration of all guns and licensing of gun users during her primary campaign but claimed it was not her official position during a voter forum on Aug. 18 in Waterloo, N.Y. She blamed her inexperience at speaking on camera for the discrepancy and claimed she had only made comments supporting a national gun registry at one event.

“It is true that in Seneca Falls last spring I said in an emphatic moment we must register all guns and license all gun users,” Mitrano told attendees at Seneca County SCOPE‘s “Meet the Candidates” event, video excerpts posted on YouTube show. “I walked away and went, ‘Oh my God, Tracy. What did you just do?’ That is not my official position but because Mr. Weinstein records everything that I say, I would be a fool to deny it. But that is not my position. And, honestly, if you had to be held to every single thing you ever said in your life because you’re not accustomed to being filmed every time you step out into public I think you should allow for consideration and thought about it.”

If she realized she had misspoken the moment she said it, why would she not immediately go back and issue a clarification? The 23rd is a fairly conservative district (by New York standards anyway) with a lot of gun owners. Seems to me that such a comment would be a pretty big deal and you’d want to set the records straight as quickly as possible. But that’s not the end of the apparent duplicity on display here.

After Reed’s team pointed out her position on a national gun registry, Mitrano accused her opponent of “exaggerating her support” for such a registry. She accused Reed of being dishonest in saying that the position was right on her website, insisting that he got the information from that one campaign appearance mentioned above. And if you go to Mitrano’s website today it’s absolutely true that she doesn’t mention a gun registry. (She does, however, proudly proclaim her endorsement by Moms Demand Action as a “Gun Sense Candidate.”) Unfortunately for Dr. Mitrano, the internet has a long memory and archives of previous versions of her campaign website are still out there. And, yes, they clearly list her support for a gun registry.

First, we must expand background checks, closing loopholes that allow criminals and terrorists easy access to firearms and implementing a registration system similar to how we register and license drivers.

The old website also specifies that she supports, “The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act that would repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.”

I don’t think we need an ace gumshoe to figure this one out. It seems fairly obvious that Mitrano didn’t “misspeak” at that event. She repeated a position which she took and promoted on her website so she could stake out the far-left territory during the primary. Then she tried to wipe it from her website and reel it back in for the general election and was caught doing it.

I’m not sure how much any of this will matter in any event. Reed won his 2016 race by a 15 point margin and the district hasn’t been reshaped since then. As of June 30th, Mitrano reported $7,875 cash on hand in her campaign coffers, while Reed was sitting on more than $1.2 million. (And this is a fairly cheap media market.) The only reason this story is worth a look is that it might serve as a cautionary tale to other candidates who want to play to the base during the primary and then swing back to the center for the general election. It can be done, but you’ve got to be a lot more clever than this to pull it off.