When the Koch brothers’ political operation targets a Democratic candidate, no one bats an eye. When it goes after a conservative Republican in a red state, something odd is going on.
The Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity is pulling out all the stops to end Rep. Renee Ellmers’ career in Washington.The group founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch has dozens of field workers descending on the lawmaker’s district in the Raleigh suburbs, all of whom are working to brand the three-time incumbent as a fake conservative who has too often voted for legislation reaffirming Washington’s crony capitalism.
According to The Hill’s report, this is “the first time the Koch network has ever opposed a sitting Republican lawmaker facing a primary fight.” The article added, “If successful, the AFP campaign against Ellmers will become a cautionary tale for other congressional Republicans who don’t vote in line with the Koch network’s agenda.”
But it’s not just the Koch brothers’ operation. Right Wing Watch reported earlier this month, “The Susan B. Anthony List, which serves as the electoral arm of the anti-abortion movement and is particularly focused on electing anti-choice women, is for the first time endorsing a male candidate over an anti-choice woman in a Republican primary, backing Rep. George Holding against Rep. Renee Ellmers in a recently redrawn congressional district in North Carolina.”
The right-wing Club for Growth is also actively working to end Ellmers’ career.
Last year, RedState’s Erick Erickson, a prominent voice in Republican media, went so far as to label Ellmers, an opponent of abortion rights, “the GOP’s Abortion Barbie.”
What in the world did Ellmers, who has a 78% career rating from the American Conservative Union, do to put a far-right target on her back?
As a rule, campaigns like these are rarely the result of just one vote. Ellmers supported extending the Export-Import Bank, for example, which conservatives used to like before the movement changed its mind, but that alone wouldn’t generate such a furious response.
The right’s shift against the North Carolinian began in earnest, however, a year and a half ago, when House Republicans tried to impose a 20-week abortion ban, and Ellmers balked. As written, the bill would only protect rape victims who reported their rape to law enforcement, and Ellmers, a former nurse, insisted that the policy be changed to include a broader exemption.
Many conservatives still haven’t forgiven her for this break from far-right orthodoxy.
Ironically, when Ellmers ran in 2010, she positioned herself as one of the most far-right members in an extraordinarily far-right year. The North Carolina Republican ran on a platform of opposition to the “Ground Zero Mosque” in New York – which was neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero – giving Ellmers a reputation for almost absurd radicalism.
And yet, here we are six years later, with the right ready to help throw her out of office for not being nearly conservative enough.
There’s evidence to suggest Ellmers is concerned, which helps explain why she’s eagerly touting her support for Donald Trump – who did very well in her district during North Carolina’s presidential primary – while also emphasizing her support for her state’s new anti-LGBT statute, known as HB 2.
Will that be enough? We’ll find out on June 7, the date of North Carolina’s congressional primaries.