Carolyn Meadows (left) of Cobb County was elected president of the National Rifle Association, replacing Oliver North, after a power struggle roiled the NRA’s annual convention. The group’s board unanimously re-elected Wayne LaPierre as chief executive.
Photo: AJC photo illustration
Photo: AJC photo illustration

New NRA president from Marietta is a political survivor

Carolyn Meadows, newly elected as president of the National Rifle Association, promises to bring the group’s resources to bear when U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath is up for reelection.

For Meadows, it’s personal.

She lives in the 6th Congressional District, where Democrat McBath campaigned, drew national attention and won in part on her gun control stances last year.

“Whoever (runs against McBath) will get an endorsement from the NRA,” Meadows said shortly after arriving home from the raucous NRA convention in Indianapolis.

During that meeting, then-NRA president Oliver North leveled allegations of corruption and mismanagement at some leaders, including CEO Wayne LaPierre, news reports say. That fight came as the gun-rights group is facing an investigation by the New York attorney general over its tax-exempt status. The NRA’s discussions and elections took place behind closed doors. When the doors opened, Second Vice President Meadows had moved up; and North, who would have typically served four years, was done after two.

“I did not seek it. But, when duty calls, I cannot say no,” Meadows said.

She declined to talk about details. All organizations have disagreements, she said.

“We are not looking backward. We have 2020 coming up,” she said referring to the presidential election. Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the convention.

As NRA president, she will direct thrice-yearly board meetings, but the daily power resides with LaPierre.

Meadows, 80, is no stranger to political or fratricidal strife. She is a pioneer in Georgia Republican politics. She campaigned door-to-door for Republican Bo Callaway as governor in 1966, when Georgia was deep blue. She ended up on the winning side of Cobb County Republican politics in 1988, when a subset of conservative Christians with eyes on Pat Robertson as a presidential candidate managed to corral power for a while.

» Read about Rep. Lucy McBath’s role in proposed legislation restoring money to the CDC to study gun violence.

She picked up some important skills during those years. She knows how to bring a gentler voice to a tough conversation. But, “I can be tough as nails, and some of them call me Margaret Thatcher, which I thank them for,” she said.

She has served as a Georgia representative on the Republican National Committee, helped organize the 1999 state presidential campaign for Steve Forbes, and supported Casey Cagle for governor in 2018, bringing with her an NRA endorsement.

“She has shattered a lot of glass ceilings throughout her time,” Cagle said. “She is a testament to what hard work can do for you, and she never shied away from that. Or from her convictions.”

McBath, who co-sponsored proposed legislation to restore funding to Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence, is aware Meadows lives in her district. The NRA lobbied years ago to constrain the CDC’s work.

She was unconcerned about Meadow’s promise to bring the NRA’s power to bear on her re-election.

“We’ll, they’ve all gotten NRA backing in the past, so it’s no different,” she said.

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