posted on November 04, 2010 17:43
Election night, after the ten counties in her district reported their votes, Renee Ellmers led incumbent Congressman Bob Etheridge by 2,100 votes. (That number is crucial because under North Carolina law Congressman Etheridge is not entitled to an ‘automatic recount’ if he trails by more than 1% – or 1,888 votes.)
Then the afternoon after the election – out of a clear blue sky – the vote totals changed. The State Board of Elections reported Mrs. Ellmers’ lead had dropped to 1,600 votes. The explanation, when it came to light, was as old as time: Human Error.
Meantime, Congressman Etheridge had hot-footed it to a press conference and announced he was going to call for a recount the first chance he got which, of course, he has every right to do.
So, two days after the election Mrs. Ellmers’ campaign found itself hiring attorneys – eleven attorneys in all. One in each county to monitor each voter canvas and recount, and an attorney to work with the State Board of Elections. The minimum cost: $50,000 – which is a huge problem because, of course, Mrs. Ellmers’ campaign spent every penny it had before the election.
Next Mrs. Ellmers’ campaign appealed to the Republican National Congressional Committee, asking if it could contribute to help pay for the costs of the recount. The answer came back: No, nyet, nix. Mrs. Ellmers, the NRCC said, would have to raise the money to pay for the recount herself – which was unfortunate but not unexpected.
Back in June when an NRCC ‘tracker’ made the famous videotape of Congressman Etheridge assailing the two students on a sidewalk in Washington, the NRCC staunchly denied it had any idea who the ‘tracker’ was.
In other words, the NRCC misled the press – which was a dunderheaded move. Which led to another problem: When Ellmers’ campaign learned what had actually happened, over the strenuous objections of the NRCC Political Director Brian Walsh and Executive Director Guy Harrison, it told the press the ‘tracker’ had worked for the NRCC – which was then reported in the News and Observer.
Ever since the NRCC has been unremittingly hostile to Renee Ellmers’ campaign. They planted stories in the press – quoting anonymous NRCC spokesmen – saying her campaign was incompetent and ‘not ready for primetime’ and that she was not ‘on their radar screen’ because she had no chance to win – which, of course, made it even harder for Ellmers to raise the money she needed to win.
In the fall, the NRCC poured money into other campaigns in North Carolina but never lifted a finger to help Ellmers. Then on election night every North Carolina candidate the NRCC helped lost and Ellmers won.
Today, Renee Ellmers leads Bob Etheridge by 1600 votes. A lead that in all likelihood will hold up. But, of course, Mrs. Ellmers can’t take anything for granted so she’s scrambling to raise $50,000 for the recount – but the NRCC still won’t lift a finger to help. (Mrs. Ellmers’ campaign has set up a special fund – Renee Ellmers for Congress Recount Fund – to pay for the recount. To contribute click here.)
Renee Ellmers has had a long, hard campaign but one thing is certain: She’s already had an education in Washington politics.