Pinehurst, N.C. — Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and her Democratic challenger, singer Clay Aiken, clashed Monday during an hour-long debate in Pinehurst, each accusing the other of being too closely bound to their party leadership.
The debate, hosted by the North Carolina Bankers Association and Capitol Broadcasting Co., was the first and only head-to-head meeting between the two candidates as Election Day approaches.
Ellmers repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama’s policies on immigration, health care and the economy and linked him to Aiken, who is a first-time candidate.
“This Obama-Aiken economy is just killing us,” Ellmers said when asked if Congress was doing enough to spark economic growth.
Aiken retorted that the linkage was “preposterous” and that it has been partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., that was to blame for many of the nation’s problems. He said that Ellmers was beholden to House Speaker John Boehner to the point where she changed her position on major policy issues because he did.
“Whoever is speaker would never be my boss, and it’s a shame that you still believe Speaker Boehner is your boss,” Aiken said.
Often, the two candidates found common ground on policy, but they split on how best to push through legislation.
Ellmers also took swings at Aiken for naiveté, suggesting at several points that he did not understand the legislative process.
“It’s almost as if, as an entertainer, you think that means you can go in with a song and dance and change the minds of our military leaders,” Ellmers said in response to a questions about bolstering care in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Aiken returned to the theme of a “do-nothing Congress,” saying, “The most embarrassing reality show in the country right now is Congress.”
Afterward, he said that Ellmers attacked his biography because she had nothing substantive to say.
Ellmers said after the debate, “That is his opinion. He is an entertainer. He is an actor…that’s how the people of the 2nd District know him.”