North Carolina Congresswoman Renee Ellmers lost her primary to Congressman George Holding on Tuesday night, signaling a victory for grassroots conservatives and a big loss for Donald J. Trump. The presumptive Republican nominee had endorsed Ellmers on Saturday, while she endorsed him in March.
After campaigning as a Tea Party conservative in 2010, Ellmers failed to defend the values she championed in Congress. Due to her support for the crony capitalist Export-Import Bank and her opposition to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in 2015, a number of conservative groups attacked her in this year’s primary, spending money on ads and sending volunteers out to campaign against her.
This loss should give principled conservatives who struggle with supporting Trump an added impetus to turn out to the polls in primaries and especially in November — to support important down-ballot races like this one.
Ellmers’ congressional district was redrawn this cycle, forcing her into competition with another sitting congressman, George Holding. Greg Brannon, a physician and Tea Party activist who ran for U.S. Senate in 2014 and this year, came in third. Elmer was a target for conservatives in 2014, but she fended off the primary challenge from talk-show host Frank Roche, and defeated former American Idol finalist Clay Aiken to keep her seat in the general.
Conservative organizations celebrated the victory of Holding over Ellmers. Here is PJ Media’s list of the three organizations, and an anti-Ellmers video from each.
Next Page: A big free-market grassroots organization that spent big and got people out knocking doors against Ellmers.
1. Americans for Prosperity
In a press release, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) touted its “relentless volunteer pressure” against her, which consisted of knocking 16,000 doors and making over 180,000 phone calls. The organization also spent six figures on advertising, including mailers and digital ads on streaming platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Hulu.
“Renee Ellmers lost her job because she abandoned the limited-government principles she originally espoused,” AFP North Carolina State Director Donald Bryson declared. “Ellmers learn the hard way that North Carolinians care about principle more than politicians, and won’t keep politicians who become unprincipled.”
Bryson added that “Ellmers went to Congress and wasted no time becoming part of the Washington problem.” While he congratulated Congressman Holding, he also urged him to “continue to focus on cutting wasteful spending and ending special interest handouts,” ominously adding that “Americans for Prosperity will continue to hold politicians from both parties accountable to these basic principles of a free economy.”
AFP is the only one of these three organizations which targeted Ellmers that did not also attack Donald Trump.
Next Page: Another group for lower taxes and economic freedom.
2. Club for Growth Action
Club for Growth (CFG) Action, an organization similarly dedicated to lower taxes, free markets, and opposition to crony capitalism, also hailed Ellmers’ defeat. The organization spent $700,000 on a television and digital ad opposing Ellmers, first in February and then in May.
“The defeat of Renee Ellmers should be a warning to any Republican who campaigns as an economic conservative, but votes for massive spending bills and for corrupt cronyism like the Export-Import Bank,” Club for Growth Action President David McIntosh declared. “Her Club for Growth lifetime rating of 60% and 2015 score of 57% are the worst, by far, of North Carolina’s Republican delegation.”
Macintosh insisted that “CFG Action first took on Ellmers in early February — well before she endorsed Donald Trump — in the simple principle that she has failed her constituents on matters of economic liberty.”
Club for Growth Action not only attacked Trump throughout the primary, it also endorsed The Donald’s rival Ted Cruz in March. The organization opposed Trump for the same reasons it opposed Ellmers. “Their records make clear that Ted Cruz is a consistent conservative who will fight to shrink the federal footprint, while Donald Trump would seek to remake government in his desired image,” McIntosh said at the time.
Next Page: The pro-life organization which also targeted Ellmers.
3. Susan B. Anthony List
Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, a pro-life organization, also claimed victory in Ellmers’ loss. “SBA List’s North Carolina team, a ground operation of five field staff and more than 200 canvassers who have been active in the state since 2014, has had a team knocking on more than 12,500 doors across NC-02 in the last few weeks,” according to the organization’s press release. SBA List claims to have reached 90,000 voters through digital advertising as well.
The organization did some polling on voters in Ellmers’ district. SBA List found that 37.8 percent of Ellmers’ own supporters “said they were less likely to vote for her knowing her role in derailing the Pain-Capable bill” and that 67.3 percent of undecided pro-life primary voters were less likely to vote for Ellmers once they learned of her role against the bill.
“Susan B. Anthony List exists to support and amplify pro-life women’s voices. Rep. Renee Ellmers was our ally until she led the charge to derail the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” declared SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, who is a North Carolina native. Due to Ellmers’ opposition to the bill, Dannenfelser explained, “we had to flex the political muscle of the pro-life movement” against her. “She has her own failed leadership to blame for this loss.”
Tami Fitzgerald, SBA List’s North Carolina state director, praised Congressman Holding as “a true champion of the pro-life cause.” Fitzgerald added that “we know he will continue to represent his constituents well by protecting unborn babies from abortion, especially after 20 weeks when they can feel pain. He is a principled leader who will continue to defend life and serve North Carolina with integrity.”
Next Page: What this means for the #NeverTrump crowd.
While many principled conservatives may feel disenfranchised by Donald J. Trump being at the top of the ticket in November, they can take solace in seeing organizations like these lead the charge to hold elected leaders accountable. As AFP, CFG, and SBA List continue to flex their budding political muscle, they may help push the party in a more principled direction.
Trump may represent some of the very things conservatives hate — crony capitalism in his use of eminent domain, a lack of consistency on pro-life issues, and a track record of bankrolling liberal politicians like Hillary Clinton — but he is only one of the many Republicans on the ballot this November, and his endorsement failed to preserve a sellout like Renee Ellmers.
This should be a wakeup call to all principled conservatives that they should definitely show up at the polls this November, whether they vote for Trump or not, because their votes do matter in down-ballot races like this one.