Three-term U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N. Car.) lost her re-election primary by around 30 percentage points to fellow U.S. Rep. George Holding (R-N. Car.). Ellmers was endorsed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump a few days ago. Trump recorded a robo-call message on her behalf. As far as we can tell, Ellmers is the first (and only) member of Congress Trump has endorsed.
In mid-March, Ellmers was one of just six members of Congress – and the first female member of Congress – to endorse Trump’s presidential bid. Now she is the first Republican member of Congress to lose her re-election bid in a primary.
Ellmers won her 2010 primary with significant Tea Party support and turned back a challenge from American Idol star Clay Aiken in 2014. However, it appears the district’s more conservative voters have turned against her. Her votes to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, pass a spending bill that funded President Obama’s executive orders on immigration and support civil unions for same-sex partners probably were more to blame than Trump’s endorsement.
Holding, a longtime aide to the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N. Car.), capitalized on those votes as well as other anger among conservative voters that Ellmers had “betrayed” them.
However, that part of the story may be lost in the national narrative as Republican officials weigh whether to endorse Trump, merely vote for him or run away from him.
Texan elected officials will not know how primary voters will feel about their endorsement, or non-endorsement, of Trump until 2018. However, expect Trump to be stamped all over the CD23 race by Democratic nominee Pete Gallego, and expect Ellmer’s fall to be on the minds of Republican candidates in the state’s competitive (and almost competitive) districts this summer and fall.