Before the state legislature was ordered by a federal court to redraw North Carolina’s Congressional district boundaries, a long list of primary challengers were lining up against the amnesty-supporting incumbent, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.). Kay Daly, Jim Duncan, and Frank Roche had all completed the NumbersUSA Immigration-Reduction Survey, were rated as True Reformers, and were ready to challenge Ellmers on her immigration record.
But the newly drawn districts changed that and set up a race between two current Members of Congress — the immigration-expansionist Ellmers and Rep. George Holding who currently represents North Carolina’s 13th Congressional district.
After escaping a primary challenge in 2014, Ellmers’ immigration history finally caught up with her last night as Holding cruised to a 6-point victory making Ellmers the first incumbent to lose a primary challenge in 2016.
Knowing she might be in trouble, Ellmers has been on her best behavior (almost) in 2016, cosponsoring nearly every pro-enforcement bill that we’ve scored on our Immigration Grade Cards. But the damage had already been done.
It all started back in 2013-14 when the Gang of 8 amnesty bill was at the top of nearly everyone’s list. While Ellmers didn’t come out in full support of the bill, she was identified by the Gang as a potential supporter of the legislation in the House. She also backed the “Immigration Principles” that GOP Leadership presented to the Republican Caucus during a retreat in January of 2014 and showed her support by penning an op-ed for the Fayetteville Observer in the same month.
In March of 2014 it began to unravel. Ellmers tried to go toe-to-toe with national radio personality Laura Ingraham during an appearance on her national program, but instead called advocates who oppose amnesty and controlled immigration “ignorant”. The comment earned the praise of the pro-amnesty group America's Voice.
Later that month, she was caught on video berating one of her constituents (and NumbersUSA activist) during a meeting about immigration at one of her district offices.
It had gotten so bad that immigration-expansionist group FWD.us, founded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, come to her rescue in time for the 2014 primaries. The group made a six-figure ad buy in defense of Ellmers’ immigration positions, going as far as to describe her as anti-amnesty despite her own statements.
The FWD.us ad buy may have saved her in 2014, but the group didn’t have her back this spring.
Ellmers’ final undoing may have come early last year when she voted to support funding for Pres. Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesties. In January of 2015, Congress voted on two amendments to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill, H.R. 240, that would have defunded the President’s actions. Ellmers voted against both amendments and was one of only 7 Republicans to vote against Rep. Robert Aderholt’s (R-Ala.) amendment that would have defunded Pres. Obama's most recent DAPA amnesty that granted legal status and work permits to at least 5 million illegal aliens. The vote took place well before the legal challenge to DAPA by Texas and 26 other states really gained traction.
By voting against the Aderholt amendment, Ellmers joined a small group of vocal, amnesty-supporting Republicans, including Reps. Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Curbelo, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. Denham, Ros-Lehtinen, and Valadao cosponsored H.R.15 -- the House version of the Gang of 8 amnesty bill.
But Ellmers’ immigration positions go beyond her support for amnesty. Just last month, she joined 8 of her House colleagues in sending a letter to House Appropriators, urging them to include a permanent expansion of the H-2B low-skilled guest worker program in the FY17 spending bills. Ellmers supported a similar provision in the FY16 Omnibus spending bill, but the expansion is set to expire on Sept. 30 if not renewed by Congress.
Ellmers also voted last summer to give the Obama Administration fast-track status for both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement. Both free trade agreements would open up huge channels for companies to legally bring in foreign workers to compete with American workers.
There are reasons outside of immigration that led to Holding's defeat of Ellmers last night, but nothing contrasts the two candidates more than the paths they took on the issue since the introduction of the Gang of 8 amnesty bill in early 2013.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA
Updated: Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 10:15am EDT