Things got ugly Monday when former Rep. Allen West announced he was challenging National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre at the organization’s annual meeting later this month.
Mr. West, a conservative champion who recently lost his GOP primary bid for Texas governor, told The Washington Times that he had been drafted to take on the gun group’s longtime leader by a band of disgruntled members of the NRA Board of Directors.
“It is with sincere humility that I have consented to my nomination to be executive vice president of the National Rifle Association,” Mr. West said in a statement.
This challenge did not sit very well with top NRA officers.
“You’ve got Allen West trying to generate publicity for himself by saying he’s going to challenge Wayne LaPierre for the Executive Vice President’s position at the board meeting at the annual meeting,” said former NRA President David Keene, who is an editor at large for The Washington Times.
“Allen, who was elected to the board and then dropped off while he was on the board because, basically, had no friends because he’s all about Allen and not about anything else,” Mr. Keene said.
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Mr. West shot back, telling The Times: “I am the executive director of the American Constitutional Rights Union and national spokesperson/senior advisor for the Patriot Academy. So I am quite busy and hardly need publicity. I was asked [to run]. So instead of an imbecilic attempt to assail my character, perhaps the question should be addressed as to the fiduciary duty of the NRA board, on which I once sat.”
Mr. West served as a congressman from a South Florida district for one term, losing his reelection bid in 2012. He relocated to Texas, where he served as the chairman of the Texas Republican Party from 2020 to 2021.
News about Mr. West‘s challenge against Mr. LaPierre first surfaced after the gun-rights news site The Reload reported late last week that NRA board member Philip Journey and former board members Bill Dailey and Rocky Marshall launched a campaign to draft Mr. West to run in the upcoming leadership election.
A group of present and former board members want Mr. LaPierre ousted from his post over allegations of financial mismanagement and misuse of organization funds that surfaced in 2019 against Mr. LaPierre.
Mr. Keene brushed aside the qualms of what he described as a small group of dissidents.
“So there are these dissidents, very few of them. Actually, there were two that were elected to the board. And they usually, when they propose something, get maybe three or four votes out of the 76-member board,” Mr. Keene said in an interview. “So Allen and they have joined forces to say they’re going to challenge Wayne at the annual meeting. Well, the executive vice president is selected by the board.”
Mr. West is no longer on the board, Mr. Keene said, but even if he were on the board, he still wouldn’t get more than a half-dozen votes.
Mr. West said his run against Mr. LaPierre is about re-directing the NRA back to a stronger position than it has been in recent years. The NRA has waded through financial and legal turmoil, including attempting to declare bankruptcy to stave off a lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
“I served on the board for five years, tenured my resignation back in August of last year, and I’m very concerned about the NRA because we need a strong organization,” Mr. West said. “And right now, when you look at the [NRA’s] financial standing, when you look at the drop in membership. … It’s very disconcerting.”
Mr. West said he was challenging not just Mr. LaPierre but the NRA leadership that is stuck in its ways.
“The internal issues that we have seen, that were uncovered — some people don’t like the fact that they were uncovered, but they’re not disputable. And I think as long as we continue down this leadership path, it’s going to affect the NRA,” he said. “So I’m not looking at elevating myself, I’m looking to try to restore reform and reclaim the NRA for what it was intended to be.”
Mr. Keene and Mr. West had a friendlier relationship over a decade ago when Mr. West was asked by Mr. Keene, who at the time was president of the American Conservative Union, to be a top speaker at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
“I feel a personal obligation because after he got out of the military, back in 2010, we chose him to be the wind-up speaker at CPAC that year. And Allen gives one hell of a speech. And that sort of helped launch his campaign he ran for Congress,” Mr. Keene said. “Then he lost the reelection when the districts were changed, although he could have won that.”
• Kerry Picket can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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