Television viewers in the Triangle and regions to the east know Renee Ellmers and George Holding have plenty of money to attack each other.
The money comes from donors that include the health care and pharmaceutical industries on one side, and banks, lawyers and developers on the other side.
The two Republicans are facing off in a rare primary-election contest between incumbent members of Congress. Holding decided to challenge Ellmers in the 2nd Congressional District instead of seeking re-election to his current 13th District, which was moved halfway across the state when district lines were redrawn earlier this year.
Ellmers had raised more than $1.3 million as of May 18, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, while Holding had raised nearly $1.7 million at that point in the race.
A third candidate, Greg Brannon, had raised a relatively small sum of $82,500, including $13,000 transferred from an unsuccessful primary campaign against Sen. Richard Burr in March. Brannon, a Cary doctor, has run for office several times as an anti-establishment conservative.
Brannon’s donors are largely retired or self-employed people from around the state, according to Federal Election Commission filings, although most of his biggest donors are from out of state.
More than a quarter of Ellmers’ money has come from individuals, businesses and PACs associated with the health care and pharmaceutical industries. She is a nurse and has been one of Washington’s most vocal opponents of the Affordable Care Act.
Other top contributors include financial services firms and the beer and wine industry.
A few notable corporate donors outside those industries include American Crystal Sugar, Intel, the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Raleigh-based granite and marble contractor David Allen Co.
Ellmers received $5,000 from the Value in Electing Women PAC. A PAC associated with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who formerly led a group of House conservatives, gave her $5,500. She also received $7,500 from the Tuesday Group PAC, which was founded by a group of moderate Republicans in 2007.
Ellmers first won election in 2010 as part of the tea party surge but has been criticized by some conservative groups since then for moving away from the party’s right wing.
Several of the same large financial, health care and alcohol distributor groups that gave to Ellmers have also given to Holding during this election cycle.
Holding’s biggest donors, though, are mostly from the banking and legal worlds. First Citizens Bank is his biggest contributor – Holding’s family founded the bank – and Bank of America is a large contributor as well.
Other contributors include Altria, Home Depot, Deloitte, Cary-based SAS and several law firms. Developers have also bet on Holding, with large contributions from several industry groups.
Holding, who has been running to the right of Ellmers, also has establishment support. He received $5,000 from a PAC affiliated with a powerful House budget writer as well as $10,000 from the Majority Committee PAC.
How they’re spending
Brannon has been paying to promote his videos on social media – a cheaper option than television, where he hasn’t taken out any ads on any of the Triangle’s major broadcast news stations WRAL, WNCN, WTVD or WRAZ.
May was a busy month for TV ad buys for both incumbent candidates, and June has been even busier. Just on those four Triangle broadcast channels in the week leading up to the election, the two have combined to spend nearly $150,000.
Ellmers has spent $89,855 on TV ads on those channels between May 30 and June 7; Holding has spent $69,850 in the same period, according to public records from the FCC.
They’ve also engaged in some non-TV advertising.
Holding has sent out mailers attacking Ellmers for voting against amendments to budget bills in recent years that would’ve cut spending in some federal departments by up to 1 percent.
Ellmers started a website that attacks Holding for not living in the district and shows a picture of when he was caught sleeping in Congress in 2013. She also is sending voters in the district a robocall from Donald Trump, who is endorsing her over Holding and Brannon.
“She gets it, and together we will make America great again,” Trump says in one part of the 40-second message.
According to Politico, it’s the first congressional endorsement Trump has made this year. Ellmers, similarly, was the first woman in Congress to endorse Trump.
PACs versus people
Brannon has received no donations from political action committees, or PACs.
Both Ellmers and Holding received the majority of their money from PACs, although Ellmers has the highest percentage of money coming from such groups.
About $1 million of Ellmers’ $1.3 million has come from PACs. Holding’s $1.7 million includes nearly $900,000 from PACs.