Taking a Breath: A Refresher on My Goals For LEAP Foward

Since LEAP Forward made its first endorsement, nearly five months have passed and ninety six other candidates have been profiled on this site, far more than I ever anticipated when I started this project last fall. It's a testament not only to the breadth and depth of the Democratic candidates that have stepped up to run in these midterms, but also how the Parkland students have shifted the Overton Window to the point where those candidates are able to run on an unequivocal gun safety platform.

While I continue to research candidates in Arkansas and Georgia ahead of my self-imposed deadline for decisions on these races this weekend, and while I wait for Michigan's filing deadline to pass so that I can start making contacts there, I have a rare moment to come up for air for and remind myself and you as to the longer-term goals I have for LEAP Forward.

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The first purpose here was always to provide the gun safety voter with a legislative ratings system they could use to inform their vote. After trying to use the NRA's system as a guide, I discovered that the grades they give candidates to be inconsistent, their methodology opaque, and the possibility that they manipulate these grades to be pretty high. While much larger, more established gun safety organizations like Giffords and Moms Demand Action give endorsements and have candidate seals of approval, to my knowledge they do not issue legislative scorecards on individual lawmakers. So, I'm doing it myself. To that end I've now published data from thirty three states that includes grades on thousands of actions on hundreds of pieces of firearms-related legislation. All of those scorecards can be found HERE. I publish the raw data in the interest of transparency, and update the sheets to the best of my ability as new legislation gets introduced and as that legislation moves its way through the legislative process. If I've missed anything or if something seems wrong, please feel free to let me know.

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The second aspect of the project is obviously to find candidates that can provide an improvement on those numbers. I make it a point to repeat as often as possible that there's no litmus test for an endorsement. While endorsements come solely from me, I don't expect a candidate to reflect my personal views on the issue in order to be featured on the LEAP Forward site. Improvement is the goal, not purity, and I don't expect every candidate in every district in the country to have the same priorities. While there is a bar I expect anyone to be able to get over before they receive an endorsement, I think you'll find that each candidate brings a unique perceptive to the gun debate while being united in striving for a change in the status quo. Just as there's no litmus test used on the issue, I also strive to keep electability out of the equation. My goal is not to pick winners. It's back candidates who are fighting not just the fights they can win, but the fights that need fighting. 

I'd finally like to thank everyone. When I started this project, I thought at best I'd chat with a few dozen candidates, maybe get some readership here and there, but mostly thought it was just the best chance I had to channel the energy so much of us are feeling the need to express when it comes to our politics. My goal of keeping everyone updated on every bit of information on the campaigns I've profiled has turned out to be wildly optimistic for me to be able to keep up with, but since the reason is that I've now made well over 2,000 candidate contacts, and have more than 250 potential endorsements lined up over the coming weeks, it's a failure I'm happy to accept. Moving forward, I'll continue to update the current batch of scorecards and publish new ones; roll out new candidate endorsements as primary season heats up, and hopefully, come November, I'll have a healthy roster of newly-minted lawmakers to track as they attempt to shift policy when it comes to gun violence in America.

Thanks again to the candidates, the legislators, and the visitors who have made this possible. As always, if anyone has any input, please let me know. You can e-mail me any time at admin@leap-forward.org.

Charles