(CNN) – Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, picked up the support of the National Rifle Association Monday, offering voters a reminder of his culturally conservative views as he battles Republican John Kasich in a difficult re-election bid.
It's the NRA's first general election endorsement of the 2010 cycle.
"Our members will interpret your 'A+' rating and endorsement as an indication that you are a pro-Second Amendment, pro-hunting candidate who supports sportsmen and gun-owners on every issue," said Chris Cox, the chairman of the NRA's Political Victory Fund, in a letter to Strickland provided to CNN by a source familiar with the decision.
In backing Strickland, the NRA cited his vote while in Congress against the 1994 assault weapons ban.
Kasich, also in Congress at the time, voted for the legislation and earned an "F" rating from the NRA that year, though his ratings from the group have since climbed out of the cellar.
Strickland has a narrow lead over Kasich according to recent polling.
The endorsement is not a major surprise given Strickland's lifetime "A" rating from the NRA. Earlier this year, the group described Kasich's record on firearms as "mixed."
The gun rights group did not take sides in the 2006 governor's race between Strickland and his GOP opponent Ken Blackwell - but they did back Strickland in his Democratic primary.
The endorsement is the second bit of good news in recent days for Strickland as he campaigns against the headwind of a volatile political climate and his state's unsettling jobless rate.
On Friday, Strickland's campaign announced having $7.7 million on hand for the campaign – a $2 million advantage over Kasich. Both campaigns collected roughly $1.3 million during the most recent fundraising period.
Updated at 9:15 a.m. ET with response from the Kasich campaign:
"John is a strong Second Amendment supporter, is a gun owner, and is proud to have received NRA support in the past," said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols.