Ellmers ends campaign with disparaging comment about a female GOP official’s weight
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
RALEIGH (CFP) — Running in a redrawn district and facing a tsunami of outside spending aimed squarely at her, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina has lost her bid for a fourth term, becoming the first GOP lawmaker to fall in a primary in 2016.
Ellmers lost the June 7 GOP primary to U.S. Rep. George Holding, who opted to run against Ellmers after a court-ordered redraw of the Tar Heel State’s U.S. House map moved his district to another part of the state.
Her campaign ended on a bizarre note when a television camera captured Ellmers making a disparaging remark about Maggie Sandrock, a former chair of the Harnett County Republican Party, as she made her way into a polling place to vote.
“You’re eating a little too much pork barbecue. Woo,” Ellmers said in an exchange captured by Raleigh TV station WNCN.
Reacting to the comment, Sandrock, a former Ellmers supporter who now backs one of her opponents, said the congresswoman had “become a mean girl on steroids.”
Holding took 53 percent of the vote in the the 2nd District primary. Ellmers managed just 24 percent, edging past Greg Brannon, who jumped into the race after losing a U.S. Senate primary back in March.
The House primary was delayed three months after a federal court panel ordered state lawmakers to redraw the map passed after the 2010 Census. The judges ruled that two districts were improperly gerrymandered using racial considerations.
Ellmers’s district in suburban Raleigh was substantially redrawn in the new map, forcing her to run in unfamiliar territory. Her task became more difficult after Holding decided to give up his 13th District seat, which had been moved west to the Greensboro area, and run against Ellmers instead.
Ellmers, 52, a nurse, was first elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave as a critic of Obamacare, with the support of outside conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.
But those groups turned on Ellmers with a vengeance this year, spending more than $1 million to paint her as a Washington insider who supported wasteful spending.
In her concession speech, Ellmers said she was “disappointed” that the outside spending derailed her re-election bid, despite a high-profile endorsement from Donald Trump.
“The special interest groups with their deep pocks in Washington, unfortunately, have won today,” she said. “I hold my head up high. I’ve done what is necessary to serve the people of the (district).”
Ellmers also ran afoul of anti-abortion groups when she forced Republican leaders to carve out a rape exception in a bill outlawing abortions after 20 weeks.
In October 2015, Ellmers publicly denied rumors that she was having an extramarital affair with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, which came to light after McCarthy abruptly abandoned a run for House speaker.
Holding will now face Democrat John McNeil, a Raleigh lawyer, in November, in a district with a strong Republican tilt.