In politics, there’s always someone waiting to fill the political space you’ve just abandoned when you change your position on an issue. Just ask Florida Congressman Brian Mast (above). When he ran in 2016, he was a staunch gun rights supporter, A-rated by the NRA. But since February, he’s had an epiphany. Mast “flipped to support a host of gun control measures after the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida.”
Abandoning his support for Second Amendment rights has given one of his 2016 rivals a new opening. Which is why Mark Freeman — who ran against him for the nomination in back in 2016 — an opening to challenge him in the 2018 primary as the pro-gun alternative.
Mast, a Republican from Florida’s 18th District, received an A rating and financial support from the National Rifle Association during his 2016 campaign, when he defeated the mostly self-funded Freeman by 23 points in the GOP primary. Freeman placed third in that race.
But after an AR-15-wielding gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Valentine’s Day, Mast announced that he would support, among other measures, an assault weapons ban, more extensive background checks for gun buyers, and raising the minimum age for purchasing certain guns.
Freeman has a tough row to hoe going up against an incumbent this year. He came in third in the race for the nomination last time.
Freeman did not come close to defeating Mast in 2016 despite deep pockets on the campaign trail.
But this time, Mast will have a record he’ll have to defend in a district that went for Trump by nine points in 2016.
“I have fired tens of thousands of rounds through that rifle, many in combat. We used it because it was the most lethal — the best for killing our enemies. And I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands. I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend.”
His record now includes flipping on a bedrock issue for a lot of committed voters who supported him last time. Voters who likely won’t be in any mood to hear Mast explain to them why further limiting their gun rights is now in their best interests.