As far as the NRA is concerned, he's an "anti-gun candidate" worthy of a 'D' grade.
But Bobby Hanig is embracing the gun rights group. A mailer from his campaign uses the National Rifle Association logo and notes that he's a lifetime member.
The mailer doesn't claim Hanig is endorsed by the group — which has instead endorsed the incumbent he's challenging, state Rep. Beverly Boswell.
So on Facebook, Boswell posted a photo of Hanig next to Hillary Clinton and referred to Hanig as "an anti-gun sellout" who is "using the NRA logo without their permission on his mailers."
Gun rights is one of several flash points in what has become one of the most contentious races in the state.
In a mostly sleepy spring election period across North Carolina ahead of Tuesday's primaries, most incumbents are expected to keep their seats. Even where incumbents have challengers, the name-calling is mostly kept to a minimum. Things won't heat up until this fall, when every NC General Assembly seat is up for election and Democrats are trying to break the Republican supermajority.
But Boswell, who's known in Raleigh mainly for her provocative remarks, is now fiercely defending her seat against a businessman who leads the Currituck County commissioners.
Hanig has seized on the NC Board of Nursing's admonishment of Boswell for claiming to be a nurse on her campaign website and Facebook page, which she said was a mistake by a campaign volunteer. She's a medical assistant and phlebotomist. A similar claim appears in a campaign finance report from 2015.
Boswell is touting her conservative credentials and casting Hanig as a liberal. Mailers picture Hanig with Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi.
"I am a strong fiscal and social conservative who will always fight for our conservative values endorsed by the NRA and NC Right to Life and named a Champion for the Family by the NC Values Coalition," she told The News & Observer in an email.
Hanig, whose campaign has shared the NRA's Facebook posts, says he has no idea why he received a low rating from the group. He put out a news release depicting him aiming a rifle while standing near an American flag, and touting an endorsement from the owner of a local gun shop.
"Hanig is an Army veteran and gun enthusiast who knows that his unwavering support of the Second Amendment will halt efforts by liberals trying to restrict or remove guns from law abiding citizens," the news release said.
In a statement Hanig's campaign sent to The N&O, he promised to "protect the rights of gun owners."
"I believe our Constitution clearly provides us with legal rights that are under attack by liberals around the country, and we must protect those rights in North Carolina," he wrote.
The NRA, in response to a question about why Hanig merited a 'D,' didn't answer but sent an explanation of the group's rating system. A 'D,' it says, means "an anti-gun candidate who usually supports restrictive gun control legislation and opposes pro-gun reforms. Regardless of public statements, can usually be counted on to vote wrong on key issues."
The gun rights group Grassroots NC also endorsed Boswell. Hanig pointed out that he scored higher on the group's questionnaire than Boswell did.
Paul Valone, president of the group, says it endorsed Boswell over Hanig because she has supported pro-gun legislation. The group places higher importance on voting records than questionnaires, he said, because candidates might mislead voters.
Boswell has been vocal in her disdain for students demanding action on gun laws to stop mass shootings.
She boasted on Facebook that she called the leader of a charter school outside her district to ask how he handled students on March 14, when thousands of students left classrooms across America to protest gun violence. The school leader told Boswell that, to avoid walkouts, he called an assembly and held a moment of silence for the 17 people killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
Boswell, upon hearing the explanation, said she then asked him, "So the students that were eating tide pods last week run your school this week?"
'Bags don't litter — people do'
Hanig, a self-described Christian conservative, said he is challenging Boswell because he doesn't think she has done enough to support the district's interests. He appreciates that she supports low taxes.
But, he said, Boswell hurt the district by voting to lift a ban on plastic bags on the Outer Banks. Boswell also opposed a bill allowing the College of The Albemarle to use state funding for an expansion project — something that Hanig said he would've supported.
"I hear regularly from voters who complain that the incumbent has not returned their call or taken the time to respond to an inquiry via email or a letter," Hanig said in an email. "I won’t vote in favor of special interests or against the interests of the district as the incumbent did with voting against funding for the College of Albemarle and overturning the plastic bag ban."
Boswell said her son attends the college and she supports it wholeheartedly but had concerns about exempting the project from state regulations other community colleges must obey.
Shortly before Republicans won control in 2010, the Democratic-controlled legislature required stores on the Outer Banks to give shoppers paper bags instead of plastic. Supporters said the law would keep litter off the beaches.
The legislature repealed the ban last year. Boswell and other Republicans say it was unconstitutional because it applied to a few beach communities instead of statewide.
Boswell said the ban also was costly to businesses.
"And, make no mistake — retailers now have the choice to use paper bags or utilize other materials or methods that work best for their business and customers," she said in an email.
"DOT and with the support of the General Assembly are already doing something to address the littering problem which is the result of human behavior, not the products we use. Bags don't litter — people do."