Local Politics

Controversial videos raise profile of congressional race

Posted October 27, 2010 5:56 p.m. EDT
Updated October 28, 2010 6:33 p.m. EDT

— The race for North Carolina's Second Congressional District attracted little attention until an online video of the Democratic incumbent and a controversial ad by the Republican challenger made waves.

In June, a video released on the Internet showed seven-term Congressman Bob Etheridge engaged in a sidewalk confrontation with a man in Washington, D.C. He grabbed the arm and then the neck of the man, who refused Etheridge's repeated demands to identify himself as he and another man videotaped Etheridge and asked if he supported "the Obama agenda."

Etheridge immediately apologized for the incident, but together with the national surge by the Republican Party, the video helped put his opponent, Renee Ellmers, on the campaign map.

"That incident, for instance, shows a little bit of that Washington arrogance," Ellmers said recently.

The confrontation was revived in a political ad by the group Americans for Job Security, which pledged to spend $800,000 in an effort to defeat Etheridge at the polls.

Ellmers, a Harnett County nurse who helps run a medical practice with her husband, made national waves of her own with a controversial ad criticizing a proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York.

"I knew that it would be a controversial issue, but there again, I have to stand up for the people of District 2 and what they want," she said.

The congressional district includes portions of Chatham, Cumberland, Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Nash, Sampson, Vance and Wake counties.

Along with her conservative talking points of lower taxes and spending cuts, Ellmers opposes the national health care reform law.

"One of my goals is to repeal 'Obamacare' by putting in place free-market enterprise," she said, advocating that private insurers and health care providers make the rules.

"The difference is she wants to talk about going back to what they were doing before," Etheridge said. "We don't need to go back there. That's what lost all these jobs. We're now about creating jobs for the future."

He defends his vote for health care reform and the federal economic stimulus package.

"It's really about creating jobs and education. They're so closely tied, you can't separate them," he said.