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Ellmers draws primary challenger

Posted December 9, 2013 11:54 a.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2013 5:09 p.m. EST

— It's official: Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers will face a challenge from the right for her 2nd Congressional District seat next May.

Frank Roche, a conservative Internet talk show host from Cary, has been weighing a bid against Ellmers since October. He announced Monday that he will challenge her for the seat. 

"The key elements motivating my decision to take on this difficult challenge are Representative Ellmer's [sic] support for the comprehensive immigration reform legislation making its way through Congress, including a "pathway to citizenship;" her moderate go-along-to-get-along voting record in her first three years of office; an already poor record of constituent services; a relentless focus on fundraising since elected in 2010; and a lack of focus on the critically important issues impacting America's future strength and prosperity," Roche said in a news release. 

Ellmers, a second-term congresswoman from Dunn, won the seat in 2010 from long-time Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge with strong support  from tea party groups. But since her move to Washington, D.C., some of those supporters have been critical of Ellmers' voting record, saying she is not sufficiently conservative.

Her profile has risen quickly within the House GOP caucus. She's seen as a protege of Speaker John Boehner, who has given her plenty of time in the media spotlight representing the caucus on issues like the Affordable Care Act. She was tapped to deliver the GOP's weekly address Dec. 7.

However, the media spotlight hasn't always been kind. During the October shutdown, Ellmers made national headlines for saying she would not turn down her congressional paycheck because she needed the money. 

"We have no more time to waste, no more time to hope Rep. Ellmers will govern as the Conservative presented on the campaign trail," Roche said in his release. "My professional background makes me uniquely qualified to identify and correct the policy mistakes made by both Republicans and Democrats over the past three years; and the 40 years before that."

Roche is no stranger to North Carolina politics but has not yet run successfully for office. In 2010, he narrowly lost to B.J. Lawson in the GOP primary for the 4th Congressional District race.  In 2012, he ran for his party's nomination for state treasurer, but lost that bid to Steve Royal. 

According to his website, Roche moved to North Carolina in late 2007. He has been a foreign exchange trader, an adjunct economics instructor at Elon University and hosted a talk show on WRDU-FM during that station's conservative talk format period. 

Ellmers' campaign spokeswoman Jessica Wood sent the following response via email:

"Renee's focus has been and will continue to be on fulfilling the promise she made to Second District voters to fight for North Carolina's families and hard working taxpayers. She is hopeful that Second District voters will elect to send her back to Washington to continue the fight.

"Frank Roche isn't exactly an unknown entity – he's already been rejected by Republican primary voters twice before," Wood added.