Democrats call IL Republican "dishonest" for wearing hunting gear without a hunting license

This is an odd story for a couple of reasons. First, Democrats are attacking a Republican candidate for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District despite the fact that the primary won’t be held until late June. We don’t even know who the candidates will be, so it’s unusual for Democrats to try to elevate a potential opponent’s name recognition by giving them any attention.

It’s especially odd because the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is trying to call out Republican candidate Jesse Reising for his status as a hunter, accusing him of trying to pull a fast one on voters by donning blaze orange and camo for the cameras. Local television station KSDK even recently grilled the candidate over his campaign ad attire.

… in his pursuit of a new job in Congress, Reising is ditching the suit and tie for camouflage and hunter orange. Campaign videos and pictures posted to his website and social media pages show the Harvard Law School graduate walking through a field carrying a double-barreled shotgun.

We asked him if he was on a hunt or a photoshoot.

“We shot a shot that day,” Reising said. “We were out doing some pheasant hunting with the crew. I didn’t actually go out that day. But we got the… got the photos and then that’s what they are.”

However, according to FOIA documents from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources obtained by 5 On Your Side, Reising does not have a hunting license in Illinois. He acknowledged as much during a recent interview.

“Right. No, I don’t,” he said. “I haven’t hunted since I was a young kid.”

Illinois state law allows 15- to 18-year-old teenagers to hunt with a provisional license if they have a licensed adult hunter accompanying them.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gave a statement on the campaign tactic.

“Already Chicago lawyer Jesse Reising is running a dishonest campaign,” Elena Kuhn with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement. “Reising has made clear he’s not up for the job.”

Should Reising have portrayed himself as a hunter when he hasn’t hunted in years? No, but I get that it was a quick bit of visual shorthand to signal “I like guns,” and not, say, an attempt to dismiss years of pro-gun control advocacy in a 60-second campaign ad. Still, it’s an unforced error on Reising’s part, given that he could have showed himself at the range or even checking out the selection at a gun store in the district instead. Now Reising is forced to explain the decision to include the images in his campaign material.

Reising says portraying himself as a hunter is fair game because he used to go hunting years ago.

“I’ve had a serious neck injury that makes it impossible for me to hold up a shotgun,” he explained.

The same campaign video shows footage of a gruesome injury Reising suffered in college. He says he hasn’t gone hunting ever since, but still dresses up like a hunter in his campaign video alongside language that highlights his support for the Second Amendment.

Does that portray him in a false light?

“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I grew up hunting.”

Were there no photos of him as a kid with a deer that he could have used instead?

Here’s some advice for anyone running for office: if you’re not currently a hunter then don’t dress up as one for a campaign ad. It’s really that simple.

It’s still a dumb complaint by the Democrats, but Reising can turn this to his advantage. It should be noted that both Democrats running for the 13th district have no mention of either the Second Amendment or gun control in the “Issues” section of their campaign websites, unlike Reising, who at least includes it as one of his priorities. A Q & A with several of the 13th District candidates conducted back in February didn’t shed much light on the candidates’ positions either, though Democrat Nikki Budzinski was the only candidate to come out explicitly in favor of gun control policies like universal background checks and “closing gun show loopholes”, which is an interesting stance given that Illinois already has what amounts to universal background checks thanks to its Firearm Owners ID card; a must-have before someone can legally own a firearm in the state, and one that comes with its own background check before approval.

Rather than respond to the individual questions, Reising released a statement on “gun violence” to the paper conducting the Q & A.

”It’s no surprise that gun ownership has increased because of the unprecedented rise in violent crime. Responsible, law-abiding gun owners should not be penalized based on the actions of those who break the law and cause harm to others.

“As a former federal prosecutor, I know first-hand the importance of supporting and empowering our law enforcement to keep our communities safe.

“A well-funded and well-trained police force, an increased focus on the mental health of our society, and a stop to the harmful ‘defund the police’ rhetoric coming from AOC and the squad will lead us to a reduction in violent crime and a safer Illinois.”

Pretty boilerplate stuff, to be honest. If I were running Reising’s campaign I’d be cutting a new campaign ad ASAP; one that focuses on his experience in a federal courtroom. Forget the camo and orange vest. Put on a suit and tie and simply say something like this:

“The violent criminals who were prosecuted in the U.S. Attorney’s office I worked in weren’t FOID holders or concealed carry licensees. They weren’t legal gun owners for the most part. Most of the time they were already prohibited by law from possessing a firearm, but that didn’t stop them from using one to commit a carjacking, an armed robbery, a home invasion, or a murder. I know that putting another gun control law aimed at legal gun owners isn’t going to make us any safer, and it’s not going to make the Second Amendment any more secure. If I’m elected I’ll make sure that we’re using the law to target violent criminals, instead of blindly following Joe Biden’s plan to turn the right to keep and bear arms into a criminal offense.”

If he wanted, he could even go after Democrats like Nikki Budzinski by pointing out that she wants to make it a federal offense for you to loan a gun to your friend for a few days if her violent ex-boyfriend is stalking her, or for you to sell a gun to your neighbor of 20 years unless you subject them to a background check first.

I’m just speaking for me personally here, but as a gun owner and Second Amendment voter, I don’t need or want candidates pandering to me. I don’t care if you hunt. I don’t even care if you own an AR-15 (though I will admit I think it’s pretty cool if you’re building your own in your garage). I’m not electing a hunting buddy or range partner. I want someone who can eloquently, passionately, and effectively defend the Second Amendment as an elected official. I want someone who knows the issues, not just the talking points and bumper sticker slogans, and I want to know why the right to keep and bear arms is important to them. It’s great that you know it’s important to me as a voter, but why is it important to you as a candidate?

As long as the media’s talking about Jesse Reising and guns, I’d say the candidate has a great opportunity to answer that question in a way that will resonate with voters. I just think it would be most effective delivered from the front steps of a federal courthouse instead of a  tree stand or a field full of pheasant.