Never in his 30 years of campaigning has Dave Wolkins had to raise his voice and defend his reputation.
But for one of the longest-serving current state representatives in Indiana, that streak ended when he went on the attack against the National Association For Gun Rights during Friday’s Kosciusko County Republican Lincoln Day dinner in Warsaw.
The District 18 Republican representative was livid early Friday after discovering a campaign ad on Facebook associated with the NAGR that claims Wolkins supports “gun-free” safe zones and opposes constitutional carry, which would allow gun owners to carry without having a license.
He called the webpage the “most blatant lying piece of garbage from a morally bankrupt group,” referring to the NAGR.
His comments came at the portion of the GOP dinner in which candidates were given a brief chance to address the crowd.
The ad is essentially a letter signed by NAGR’s president, Dudley Brown, and claims Wolkins wants to leave people to be “left vulnerable to armed thugs and rapists.”
Wolkins lightened the mood momentarily by saying he does indeed oppose thugs and rapists, but then threatened to retaliate.
He said afterward that he’s ready “to unload” if they issue a mailer during the final week of the primary campaign.
“If this mailer drops next week you’re going to see another Dave Wolkins,” he told an audience of about 126 at the dinner at the Wagon Wheel event center known as 2517 At Vitale Events.
The gunfight is the second political dust-up in recent weeks by what many consider to be extremist conservative groups – the other being Hoosiers For Life, which criticized Wolkins for not supporting the “protection at conception” abortion bill that would ban all abortions.
Wolkins has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, which often finds itself under attack by the NAGR.
Wolkins said he personally supports constitutional carry, but has opposed it because surveys indicate his constituents do not support it.
On abortion, Wolkins has been endorsed by Indiana Right To Life.
Wolkins faces Russ Reahard in the Republican primary on May 8, but made it clear his anger was not directed at Reahard, whom he called an honorable man.
Reahard has the support of Hoosiers for Life.
Reahard said he was aware of the NAGR attack against Wolkins, and said he believes gun-free zones “infringe on the constitutional right to carry.”
As for gun legislation, he urged voters to make up their own mind by looking at Wolkins’ voting record.
Curt Nisly, who was honored by NAGR’s Brown just weeks ago in a ceremony near Warsaw, heard Wolkins’ concerns Friday night.
When asked if he supports the group’s political maneuver, Nisly replied, “My agenda is that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. That’s my agenda. They support me because of that. I’m not supporting them. They’re supporting me because of my stand.”
Nisly, representing State House District 22, faces a challenge from Kimberly Cates in next week’s Republican primary.