Republican 2nd Congressional District hopeful Kevin Raye has received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.

The endorsement by the pro-gun rights group is a late boost to Raye’s campaign against primary opponent Bruce Poliquin in a contest to be decided on June 10. The group didn’t endorse in the Democratic primary, being waged by state Sens. Troy Jackson and Emily Cain.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam confirmed the endorsement Friday, and Raye spokesman Michael Leavitt said in a statement that the nod is “a huge boost to Kevin’s campaign.”

“As a consistent and unwavering supporter of the rights of law-abiding gun owners, the endorsement of the NRA means a lot to me,” Raye said in a statement.

The endorsement isn’t a great surprise, even though the NRA’s website gives Poliquin an “A-minus” rating to Raye’s “A.” Raye has consistently gotten high marks from the NRA during his legislative service.

While the group endorsed outgoing U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in his 2012 campaign against Raye, that is likely because of an NRA policy that admittedly favors incumbents over opponents with similar views on gun issues.

Even though the group holds Poliquin in high regard and he has consistently espoused support for gun rights during the campaign for Michaud’s seat, he has a history that could concern some gun activists.

In 1989, Poliquin gave $500 to Handgun Control Inc., which now operates as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control group that fights conservative organizations like the NRA.

Also, in a 2010 gubernatorial forum, Poliquin was the only Republican to say he supports mandatory background checks when people purchase a firearm.

However, in a recent op-ed in the Bangor Daily News, Poliquin wrote, “I do not support, and never have, the extreme objectives of national gun control groups, such as a federal directory of gun owners or expanded background checks.”

Matthew Hutson, Poliquin’s campaign manager, reiterated in an email that Poliquin “absolutely does not support any expansion of background checks,” noting that Poliquin is endorsed by a host of Maine gun-rights activists, some of whom are NRA-certified firearms instructors.

The group’s decision not to endorse Jackson in his primary may surprise some, since he has gotten consistent “A” grades and legislative endorsement from the NRA. Cain has gotten middling scores from the NRA over the years.

Jackson spokesman Alan Brewer said the candidate’s position on guns “as a Maine sportsman” is well-understood throughout the district.

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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