Second Congressional District candidates go On the Record

Incumbent Renee Ellmers, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Steve Wilkins disagree on health care, sequestration and bipartisanship.

Posted Updated

Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, a first-term Republican incumbent, is running to keep her seat against Democrat Steve Wilkins, a U.S. Army veteran who now works for the Boeing Company.

The two appeared Thursday on WRAL2 on "On the Record," WRAL-TV's weekly public affairs show, with anchor David Crabtree and Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie. In case you missed the show, it's available online:

The two tussled over a number of items, and Ellmers hit some GOP talking points – calling the stimulus program passed in 2009 "Obama's failed stimulus" – throughout the episode. 

The most interesting exchange came over sequestration, the automatic spending cuts that are poised to go into effect at the end of the year. Sequestration was included as part of a deal last year to raise the federal debt ceiling. 

Those cuts were supposed to be headed off by a subsequent budget deal to be crafted by a so-called "super committee," which was unable to produce an passable alternative.

Sequestration would hit North Carolina hard, both by defense cuts as well as cuts to social service spending, so both candidates were eager to blame the problem on the other party.

"That sequestration originated in the White House," Ellmers said. "It came straight from the White House."

Wilkins disagreed, saying, "That's not a concoction of the president."

Fact checkers who have looked at this question have called claims that President Barack Obama, or at least his staff, didn't come up with sequestration "fanciful" and "mostly false." As PolitiFact wrote, "it was Obama’s negotiating team that came up with the idea for defense cuts in 2011, though they were intended to prod Congress to come up with a better deal for reining in the deficit, not as an effort to make those cuts reality."

So Wilkins is wrong on this point when he said that sequestration is not a presidential concoction. Of course, it would be fair to point out that the Republican-lead House voted to make sequestration part of the debt ceiling deal and that Ellmers herself voted for that deal. 

On other points, Ellmers and Wilkins stuck close to what you might expect from their respective parties. For example, Ellmers said she backs the full repeal of the federal health insurance law known as Obamacare, Wilkins said it was a good law that should remain in place. 

Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.