Raleigh, N.C. — Facing a growing list of challengers, Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers is seeking to boost her conservative credentials heading into the March primary.
Ellmers filed for re-election Friday afternoon at the North Carolina State Board of Elections in Raleigh.
She's expected to face four Republican challengers in March. Tim D'Annunzio and Jim Duncan have already filed for the race. Frank Roche is scheduled to file Monday. Kay Daly has also said she intends to challenge Ellmers.
All four challengers say they're truer conservatives than Ellmers, who defeated incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge in 2010 with tea party support but later became closely connected with the leadership structure of former House Speaker John Boehner.
On Thursday, Ellmers announced she had filed a House resolution condemning proposals to ban people on federal terrorism watch lists from buying guns in the United States. President Barack Obama has called for such a ban for people on the so-called "no-fly" list, and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy implemented that proposal in his state last week by executive order.
Ellmers told WRAL News that the federal terrorist watch list includes "somewhere between 700,000 and a million people," with "about 47,000" on the "no-fly" list. Of the latter number, Ellmers said she believes only 800 are U.S. citizens.
"Just because you end up on the list does not mean that you have any criminal background whatsoever," Ellmers said. "If you are on one of those lists, that does not mean that you should be ineligible to receive a firearm if you actually go through the process correctly."
Asked what she would propose to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, Ellmers said the current system is sufficient.
"As you know, terrorists are not able to – especially someone that’s coming from another country is not able to – receive a firearm," she stated. "If someone were to show up again on one of the lists, or if even the gun dealer themselves has some suspicions or what not, this is information that gets passed on to the FBI, and the FBI can do a full investigation."
Someone seeking to purchase a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer must undergo a federal background check that would include citizenship. However, no such check is required for most purchases from individuals online or at gun shows.
"I feel very strongly that we have a robust system, and now it’s just up to us to make sure that we make clear to the American people and law-abiding citizens who want to buy a firearm that they are able and capable of doing that," Ellmers said.
The three-term congresswoman also touted her work to reverse the Affordable Care Act, including her vote Friday morning for a spending bill that, she said, "repeals three of the major taxes in the Affordable Care Act, which essentially takes it apart."
The budget deal actually delays the so-called "Cadillac tax" on generous health insurance plans from 2018 to 2020, suspends a tax on medical devices for two years and suspends a tax on health insurance for one year. It does not repeal any of them.
Ellmers also flatly refused to back a proposal by Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and North Carolina evangelist Franklin Graham to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
"No, that’s unconstitutional," she answered quickly. "First and foremost, as you know, our country was built on the foundation of those coming from other areas and migrating here. We simply cannot do something like that. Not only does it break many, many rules, but our First Amendment rights certainly, particularly when it comes to religious freedom. If we’re going to embrace religious freedom, then we have to stand strong on this issue."
2nd District Republican challengers
Ellmers said she "feels strongly about" the crowd of primary challengers she faces.
"I take every primary election very seriously, and we’re just going to again tell our story, talk about what we’ve accomplished representing the people of District 2 and their needs and what their expectations are," she said. "I have a record to run on. I’m standing up for the people of District 2 on so many different levels, and we’re just going to make sure that message gets out."
D'Annunzio is a familiar name in North Carolina politics. He was a primary candidate in 2010 in the 8th Congressional District but lost to fellow Republican Harold Johnson, who lost to Democratic incumbent Larry Kissell. In 2012, D'Annunzio was the Republican challenger to incumbent Democrat David Price in the 4th Congressional District but lost by a large margin. In 2014, he switched parties and ran for the Libertarian nomination in the U.S. Senate race but lost to nominee Sean Haugh.
Duncan is a retired businessman and former chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party. He has the endorsement of the right-wing political advocacy group Club for Growth.
Roche, an investment expert from Cary, unsuccessfully challenged Ellmers in the 2014 primary.
Daly, who formerly worked for the state Republican Party, launched her campaign with a television ad that aired in the Raleigh market during the CNN Republican debate on Sept. 16. In it, the gun-toting candidate declares she's "hunting RINOs," a pejorative acronym for "Republican in name only."