RALEIGH — Three first-time Republican candidates are vying in next week's primary to challenge Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge, a veteran seeking an eighth term representing the 2nd Congressional District.
Frank Deatrich, 70, is a small-business owner who moved to North Carolina from Kansas in 2004 to help care for his grandchildren while his son served in the military. He supports the abolition of the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax and decries what he sees as the country's slide toward socialism.
Renee Ellmers, 46, is a registered nurse who manages her husband's medical practice in Dunn. She is a self-described tea party conservative who has made criticism of Etheridge's vote in favor of the health care legislation a focus of her campaign.
Todd Gailas, 39, has campaigned on how his problem securing credit for his used car dealership in Greenville is an example of how Etheridge and other Democrats have mismanaged the economy. But a search of public records shows Gailas has a history of bankruptcies and foreclosures that predate the current financial crisis.
The winner of the primary Tuesday will face Etheridge in the November general election.
Etheridge reported having amassed more than $1.1 million in his campaign war chest as of last week.
For a look at the three Republican challengers, go to Page 7B.
A former U.S. Marine born in Wyoming, Deatrich owns a carpet cleaning business. On his campaign website, he features a quote from Fox News commentator Glenn Beck: "When the people lead, the leaders will follow."
Deatrich has made the economy his main issue, saying that big businesses that become insolvent should be allowed to fail, not bailed out by the government. He supports cutting taxes, which he said would stimulate the economy. As for cuts, he said he wouldn't reduce Social Security or Medicare, but he supports the elimination of the federal departments of Education and Homeland Security.
"The federal government shouldn't really be doing anything but national defense," he said in an interview.
Ellmers said this week that Etheridge votes with his party's leadership too often on bills to which the majority of constituents in his conservative-leaning district are opposed. Etheridge voted in favor of bills supported by the House leadership 97.6 percent of the time, according to a recent analysis by The Washington Post.
"His views are that of the Pelosi/Obama liberal left and not that of his constituency," Ellmers said.
A Michigan native, Ellmers said she favors returning to "core conservative values" and reducing the size of government while opposing the "redistribution of wealth" agenda of the Obama administration.
Ellmers said she would create jobs by voting for across-the-board tax cuts for individuals and businesses well beyond the tax cuts approved under Presidents George W. Bush or Barack Obama. She also said she was opposed to deficit spending.
Asked what federal programs she would cut, Ellmers said she wouldn't touchSocial Security or Medicare. She said would vote to end extensions of unemployment benefits and make cuts to a "bloated bureaucratic system." She couldn't specify what she would cut to fund the tax cuts she proposes.
Ellmers is also a social conservative who said she opposes abortion and same-sex marriage.
Speaking at a tea party rally April 15, Gailas made reference to what he sees as bad economic policies in Washington that have harmed small businesses such as his.
"I have watched the last 18 months with these ridiculous economical banking issues, bailing out the big boys letting the small ones fail," Gailas told the crowd. "I felt it myself, and it almost drove me down. And I am not willing to sit here and not fight back."
On his website, Gailas blames Etheridge for what he calls "unconstitutional government policies that crippled a thriving business" and put 25 of his employees out of work.
Public records show a troubled credit history for Gailas, however.
Federal court records show Gailas filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in South Carolina in 2004 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy in North Carolina in 2005, well before the start of the current financial crisis or Democratic control of Congress. Court filings from South Carolina also show at least six foreclosure filings against Gailas between 2002 and 2004.
Gailas said Monday those problems were related to the failure of a car dealership he owned in South Carolina.
Court records show Gailas entered a guilty plea in 1994 to a misdemeanor charge of being intoxicated and disruptive. He was charged in 1995 with a felony for writing a worthless check, which was reduced to a misdemeanor conviction in an apparent plea deal. He was charged with driving while impaired in 1996, which was reduced to misdemeanor driving with an open container in the vehicle. In 2007, his record shows a guilty plea to a charge of offering a used vehicle to sell without inspection.
Gailas said Monday he knew nothing of the charge for selling vehicles without the proper inspections. As for the alcohol offenses, he acknowledged being wild in his younger days, but he said that is behind him.
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