Sunday, May 15, 2016

Can Trump Save Renee Ellmers From The Far Right?


Renee Ellmers is probably wishing all she had to face this election cycle was last cycle's opponent, gay singling star and American Idol fave, Clay Aiken. She beat him 122,128 (59%) to 85,479 (41%). After the district was redrawn by court order it's still safely Republican but now she's in a battle royale with fellow Republicans George Holding (who was redistricted out of a safe seat) and big name teabagger Greg Brannon who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014 and has major name recognition. The congressional primary was postponed until June 7 because of the new boundaries. The district includes Vance, Franklin, Nash, Johnston, Harnett, Sampson, Harnett, Lee and Chatham counties.

Ellmers, who has endorsed Trump-- the first woman in Congress to do so-- to make up for her squishy reputation, has some real problems here. First off, Holding who's one of the richest members of Congress and lives nowhere near the district, has the backing of FreedomWorks, Club for Growth (which has already spent half a million dollars attacking Ellmers), the Susan B Anthony List (the right-wing version of EMILY's List but even crazier), the North Carolina Values Coalition and the Koch Brothers' Americans For Prosperity.

Club for Growth Action President David McIntosh charged Ellmers isn’t the same “tea-party conservative” she ran as six years ago. He called Ellmers “an establishment liberal in Washington,” and criticized her vote in favor of December’s omnibus spending bill that avoided a government shutdown.

...Ellmers’ campaign Friday called the Club for Growth “a Washington special interest group that supports candidates like George Holding and Greg Brannon because they have pledged to be their puppets.”

Patrick Sebastian, Ellmers’ campaign spokesman, said the group was unable to effectively attack Trump this election cycle, so they’ve turned toward attacking his allies. Sebastian noted Ellmers’ conservative record of pro-military and Medicare reform votes in Congress.

Ellmers was the first woman in Congress to endorse Trump. She has very publicly championed Trump and she penned the billionaire CEO’s profile in last month’s Time magazine “100 Most Influential People” feature.

At the same time, the Club for Growth spent months attacking the GOP presidential frontrunner, threatening Republicans who endorsed Trump prior to Sen. Ted Cruz and John Kaisch dropping out this week.
This will be the first time the Koch organization is opposing a Republican incumbent in a primary and they're coming in with several hundred thousand dollars worth of mailers and ads. So far Ellmers has raised $1,300,979 and has $572,837 cash-on-hand, Holding has raised $1,380,508 (with $554,384 cash on hand) and Brannon has brought in $321,586, most of which he's already spent. Ellmers' reputation took a huge hit when her adulterous affair with Kevin McCarthy was exposed, something Republican voters in North Carolina take seriously. Holding is favored to beat her in the primary next month.

Trump came out on top in the North Carolina primary, beating Cruz by around 50,000 votes, 40.2 to 36.8%. But it was much closer in NC-02, where he lost the Raleigh suburbs (Franklin, Nash, Wilson, Chatham and Johnston counties) to Cruz but won Vance, Lee, Harnett and Sampson counties. I'm sure North Carolina Republicans will rally round Trump now, but he may have a harder time with Independents. Hard to say if he'll be a net plus or a net minus for Ellmers, but I guess if she loses he can find her a job-- either in his administration or... he always has lot of work for women, right?

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