Local Politics

Ellmers claims victory; Etheridge wants votes counted

Posted November 2, 2010 11:10 p.m. EDT
Updated November 3, 2010 7:43 a.m. EDT

— Seven-term Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge appeared late Tuesday to lose his re-election bid, becoming the lone casualty among North Carolina's congressional delegation in a pivotal election nationwide.

The Associated Press declared Republican challenger Renee Ellmers the victor in the Second District race shortly before midnight. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Ellmers had about a 2,100-vote lead over Etheridge.

Etheridge, however, wasn't ready to concede defeat.

"I’ve been in close elections before, and we will follow the established process to ensure the integrity of the outcome. We will make sure every vote is counted and every voice is heard," he said in a statement.

"For all the naysayers on both sides of the aisle, it feels really good to stand up here (and claim victory)," Ellmers told cheering supporters at her campaign headquarters in Dunn.

Ellmers, a Harnett County nurse who was given little chance of victory a few months ago, rode a wave of voter discontent and the fallout of an online video depicting Etheridge confronting a man on a Washington, D.C., sidewalk to edge by him.

In an interview with WRAL News on Wednesday, Ellmers addressed the YouTube video controversy.

"I think that (video) really showed something about what we, the American people, are saying about Washington – an arrogance on the street there in Washington," she said. "But I think the thing that really hurt Congressman Etheridge was his vote on the health care bill."

The video released on the Internet in June showed Etheridge grabbing the arm and then the neck of a 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 Ellmers on the campaign map.

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 said she planned to work for a change in the political culture in Washington.

"The people are not supposed to work for Washington. Washington is supposed to work for people," she said. "I promise that I will always come to you, and I won't look to the leadership in Washington for answers."

All other congressional incumbents in North Carolina won re-election, including David Price in the Fourth District and Brad Miller in the 13th District.

Outside groups also targeted Eighth District Congressman Larry Kissell and 11th District Congressman Heath Shuler, but both easily downed their Republican challengers.