Editorials

Renee Ellmers lost the conservative test

Rep. Renee Ellmers during the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary debate at WRAL studio in Raleigh Thursday, May 19, 2016.
Rep. Renee Ellmers during the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary debate at WRAL studio in Raleigh Thursday, May 19, 2016. tlong@newsobserver.com

Remember when conservative Republicans, and Democrats in the Deep South, used to blame liberal causes such as civil rights on “outside agitators”? Now it appears U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina’s 2nd District could say the same about her loss to Rep. George Holding in her race for re-election.

Now this one was curious: Ellmers checks most boxes as an Obama-hating, pro-gun, hard core conservative, which fits her 2nd District. And her chief opponent, Rep. George Holding, could have been tagged with the carpetbagger label, as he lives in the 4th District, and has represented the 13th District, until that is, after the next election, when goofy redistricting by Republicans in the General Assembly is moving his district west. No problem, Holding said. He decided to run against Ellmers, and he beat her decisively on Tuesday.

One factor: More than $1 million spent by groups generally favorable to conservative Republicans was spent against Ellmers this time out. Her mistake, apparently, was not joining in when tea party Republicans in Washington wanted to shut down the government. And she didn’t fall in line behind Donald Trump’s preposterous idea to deport all immigrants now in the United States illegally. There are approximately 11 million of them. In other words, Ellmers was conservative, but just not conservative enough for ultraconservative groups that want to purify the GOP by eliminating all moderates.

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision having knocked down responsible limits on campaign finance, congressional districts all over the country can expect the kind of infusion of cash the right wing puts in selected races to ensure the most radical views prevail.

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