WASHINGTON — The National Republican Congressional Committee has come through with $10,000 for Renee Ellmers.
The money will help Ellmers' effort to attain the 2nd Congressional District seat she is seeking, but it could also heal a rift between the tea party-backed candidate and the Washington-based campaign organization.
"It seems like we're moving in the right direction," said Al Lytton, Ellmers' campaign manager. "We certainly welcome their support."
As final results come in from the district's 11 counties, Ellmers remains about 1,600 votes ahead of incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge. If the race remains that tight through the current vote-counting, he'll be entitled to request a recount.
As county election officials count provisional and absentee ballots, both campaigns have the opportunity to observe.
Carter Wrenn, Ellmers' political strategist, said Monday that Ellmers' attorneys have so far jumped in twice as votes were counted in Nash and Chatham counties. In Nash, for example, voters who lived in the 2nd District cast ballots outside their usual polling places, he said. He said that when the election officials considered counting straight- ticket Democratic votes as votes in Etheridge's favor, one of Ellmers' attorneys objected. Neither Ellmers nor Etheridge was on the ballot outside the 2nd District, Wrenn said, so it would have been impossible for election officials to know the voters' intent.
The NRCC refused Ellmers' request Wednesday to contribute to a potential recount legal team.
But Friday, the organization sent $5,000 to Ellmers' general campaign committee, and $5,000 to her recount effort.
In between, Ellmers lashed out at the committee ine-mail messages to supporters, Rush Limbaugh raised her case on his national radio show, and Sarah Palin tweeted to followers and urged them to contribute to another "Mama Grizzly."
Ellmers told supporters in an e-mail message that she needed their help to raise $50,000 for a potential recount against Etheridge.
The Etheridge campaign has been advised by both a local attorney and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as it follows the vote count and prepares for a potential recount, said spokesman Mike Davis. The campaign has also worked to raise some money for the recount. "We feel comfortable we will have the funds we need to do what we need to do," he said.
The most recent campaign spending reports show that Etheridge raised $1.2 million to Ellmers' $550,000 through mid-October.
Ellmers told supporters that the NRCC had refused this summer to give money to her race, and reminded them that a spokesman had said her campaign wasn't "ready for prime time." Ellmers, however, benefited from nearly $400,000 that independent groups spent in the 2nd district on anti-Etheridge mailings.
"I am doubtful we will get support from the NRCC to help with the expense of the recount," Ellmers wrote in her e-mail message.
On Thursday, Limbaugh criticized the congressional committee on his radio show. "She's tea party," he said of Ellmers, adding sarcastically: "The Republicans can't have tea party."
He suggested the Republican committee was "telling Renee Ellmers to go to hell."
Also Thursday, Palin sent out her support. "Mama Grizzly Renee Ellmers needs our help securing an honest and fair recount. Please donate here," Palin tweeted, offering a link to Ellmers' website.
On Friday, the NRCC sent its money.
"They contacted us and said they would help. They've had a change of heart," Wrenn said.
"The NRCC is doing everything within the boundaries of the law to ensure that Renee Ellmers' election to Congress is confirmed," said NRCC spokesman Jon Thompson in a prepared statement. "We have given her campaign the maximum contribution a party committee is allowed to give by law, and we are also actively encouraging others to donate to her recount fund."
Lytton said the attention on conservative radio and blogs last week helped bring money into Ellmers' recount effort. He wouldn't say, though, whether she had reached her $50,000 goal.