Two results from yesterday’s North Carolina congressional primaries are worthy of note. First, Rep. Renee Ellmers, who has been a huge disappointment to conservatives, will not return to Congress next year. She was crushed by conservative Rep. George Holding in North Carolina’s 2nd district. Ellmers, by the way, was one of the very few members of Congress who endorsed Donald Trump when the GOP presidential race was still in doubt.
Second, Ted Budd, a solid conservative who had the backing of the Club for Growth, won the Republican primary in North Carolina’s 13th district. This seat is open (Holding formerly represented the district as previously configured) and is considered safely Republican. Thus, Budd’s primary win all but guarantees his election to Congress.
Both results represent good news for conservatives, but both require a caveat. Ellmers faced an uphill battle because her district was altered, requiring her to face another Republican incumbent. The new district contained more of Holding’s constituents than Ellmers’.
Budd benefited from the size of the Republican field. It consisted of 17 candidates. Thus, Budd was able to win with 20 percent of the vote.
In Elmers’ case, the significance of her defeat resides mostly in its magnitude. She lost to Holding 53.3 to 23.6. In fact, she came within around 200 votes of finishing third.
As for Budd, he captured almost twice as many votes as his closest rival, State Rep. John Blust. Any candidate could have won with 20 percent. Budd did it; no one else came close.
Budd owns a gun range. He has never held public office.
There is, I think, a lesson to be learned from these two primaries. I hope the lesson won’t be lost on Sen. Thom Tillis.
Like Ellmers, Tillis has been a disappointment in Washington. For example, he was one of the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans who backed leniency in sentencing legislation. He also helped thwart the effort to defund President Obama’s “affirmatively furthering fair housing” rule (AFFH).
If he keeps it up, Tillis can expect a strong, and possibly successful, primary challenge in 2020.