A North Carolina Republican trying to unseat a longtime congressman has said thanks, but no thanks to a $500 campaign contribution from U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers’ husband.
Brent Ellmers, a surgeon from Dunn, N.C., contributed the money online to Taylor Griffin’s campaign on the last day of the 2015 fund-raising year, according to financial disclosures filed by the candidate with the Federal Election Commission.
Griffin is running against 10-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Walter Jones in the upcoming 3rd Congressional District Republican primary. Ellmers, a Republican, is seeking a fourth term in a crowded primary that includes Republican Rep. George Holding, who now represents North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District.
Griffin says he promptly returned Brent Ellmers’ $500 credit-card donation and told Ellmers he appreciates his support but doesn’t want any campaign contributions from sitting members of Congress, or their spouses.
“I don’t want to go into Congress having aligned with one set of congressmen or one particular point of view or another,” Griffin told McClatchy this week in an interview.
He just agrees with Taylor Griffin and disagrees with Walter Jones on the issues.
Patrick Sebastian, an Ellmers spokesman, on Brent Ellmers’ donation
Both Griffin and Ellmers’ campaign spokesman declined to say whether Brent Ellmers’ donation was a sign of bad blood between the 2nd district incumbent and Jones.
Last year, Jones sent a letter last year to a House leader, in part, due to rumor that Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California had an affair with Rep. Ellmers. Ellmers has called the rumor one of “completely false accusations.”
Jones’ letter – which called for anyone seeking a House leadership role to withdraw candidacy if they had committed “misdeeds” while serving in Congress – may have fanned the flames of the rumor. At the time, McCarthy was running for former Speaker John Boehner’s post but abruptly withdrew, saying he only wanted the job if he had the full support of House Republicans, which wasn’t likely at the time.
Ellmers serves as the congresswoman from the state’s 2nd Congressional District, located close to the 3rd district in Eastern North Carolina.
Her campaign spokesman, Patrick Sebastian, told McClatchy that Ellmers’ husband gave to Griffin running in the “next door” district because “he just agrees with Taylor Griffin and disagrees with Walter Jones on the issues.” Asked what issues in particular he was referring to, Sebastian said Ellmers’ explanation to him was that Griffin would be overall a “better representative” than Jones for North Carolina.
Griffin says he called Brent Ellmers to explain why he returned the donation and to thank him.
In elections, campaign dollars matter greatly – both the amount a politician raises and where they get their money from.
Griffin’s fund raising abilities this election cycle are helping him launch a formidable challenge against Jones in the primary. During the last quarter of 2015, he brought in more donations than Jones did – $105,445, compared to Jones’ $64,661. Nonetheless, Jones still holds a slight overall “cash on hand” advantage.
Griffin said North Carolina has a “fantastic delegation” in Washington, D.C., and the rejection of Ellmers’ campaign gift isn’t personal. The same policy not to accept gifts from sitting members or their spouses, Griffin said, applies to any other members of Congress, though Ellmers is the only one who has tried to give Griffin’s campaign money.
Griffin added: “By and large, Washington is not doing a good job,” as a reason for keeping a distance from incumbent money.
Campaign finance records show Brent Ellmers has previously given political donations to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and the National Republican Congressional Committee, a group that raises cash to help GOP candidates win elections. In 2010, Ellmers gave $250 to Burr’s re-election campaign. The next year, after his wife took office in Congress, Ellmers gave $1,500 to the Republican party’s congressional fund-raising committee.