Renee Ellmers Beats Underfunded Primary Challenger

Rep. Renee Ellmers coasted to victory in her primary election Tuesday despite a recent series of controversial outbursts on immigration, underscoring the difficulty underfunded, inexperienced primary candidates are having toppling vulnerable Republicans that are far more prepared for such challenges than past election cycles.

According to his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, Roche had raised only $23,000 through the middle of April, less than three weeks before election day. Ellmers, meanwhile, had raised nearly $1 million over the election cycle and had $424,000 in cash on hand.

In other words, Ellmers had over 18 times as much cash on hand as Roche had raised over the course of the entire race.

Ellmers has also had the backing of the GOP establishment in North Carolina and well-funded national pro-amnesty organizations ranging from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg via his political advocacy shop FWD.us to ImmigrationWorksUSA, a business group pushing amnesty.

Roche received the endorsements of two prominent conservative pundits – radio host Laura Ingraham and columnist Ann Coulter – largely over Ellmers' liberal immigration views.

Ellmers called Ingraham “ignorant” in an on-air interview with the host, and shortly afterwards a video surfaced with the North Carolina berating an anti-amnesty activist in her office.

But Roche failed to capitalize on the moments into broader support locally or by national conservatives. In the wake of her controversial immigration remarks, FWD.us went up with an ad touting her as a “conservative fighter” who stands for “no amnesty.”

A former banker, Roche was born in Rhode Island and moved to North Carolina in 2007. He ran for Congress in 2009 and lost in the primary. A former Fox Business commentator and current talk radio host, he had experience that would have suggested a media-savvy candidate.

Beyond Roche's campaign itself, national groups did not enter the race, prompting scrutiny about how the groups are using their resources.

Tea Party Patriots, which is led by national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin, has already faced some criticism for where its resources have been focused. Ingraham hosted Martin on her program last week, and asked why she hasn’t spent any of the $2 million Tea Party Patriots spent on polling, fundraising and consulting fees on candidates like Roche or House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary challenger Dave Brat.

“If you could knock off Cantor and you can knock off Ellmers, that sends shockwaves through the establishment that you seem so committed to upending, and yet you haven’t done the research?” Ingraham pressed Martin. “It's a little late in the game to be doing the research. What's the hold up?”

But Martin’s group is hardly the only one where this issue—which is not necessarily because of nefarious motives, but more likely because of political inexperience and a pack mentality in the conservative political action committee world where one group goes into a race all others follow—has arisen. Because of actions from various conservative groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), Madison Project, FreedomWorks and more—which are focused on races like Matt Bevin’s unlikely-to-succeed challenge to Mitch McConnell or Milton Wolf’s lagging bid against Pat Roberts—candidates like Roche either go unnoticed, underfunded or ignored.


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