RALEIGH – We thought this news may be coming when former 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers changed her old campaign Facebook page from ‘Renee for Congress’ to ‘Renee for NC.’ Wednesday all doubt was removed that Ellmers is, at least, ‘exploring‘ a 2020 bid for lieutenant governor.
Ellmers rose to political prominence in the early years of the Obama administration, riding the anti-Obamacare wave into congress in the 2010 elections. Despite her grassroots, Tea Party rise into office, instead of speaking truth to power and demanding bold action, once on Capitol Hill Ellmers quickly endeared herself to the Establishment leadership.
The Establishment, led by then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and then-Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was hardly popular among the conservative base that sent Ellmers to Washington. Once regarded as a fighter, she seemed to be going along to get along in the Swamp.
Her closeness loyalty and closeness with House leadership was augmented by gossip that ended up sinking Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s 2015 bid to succeed Boehner as Speaker of the House. One morning McCarthy was making his case, and by that afternoon he was dropping out. Many think the quick reversal had everything to do with his a rumored affair. That led to a Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).
It was the very next year that Ellmers found herself double-bunked with fellow incumbent Republican Rep. George Holding in a newly drawn district. Ellmers’ appeal fell flat in the primary where she lost by some 30 points. In 2017 Ellmers was appointed by President Trump to a role with the Department of Health and Human Services, where she still serves as a regional director.
Fast foward a couple years, and add an open seat for lieutenant governor, and Ellmers is back. It will be interesting what her platform for the largely ceremonial lieutenant governor role will be, and if she attempts to tap into a grassroots narrative after demonstrating her affinity for Establishment politics on Capitol Hill. There is certainly no shortage of anti-Establishment fervor these days.
Ellmers is one of several candidates to jump into this race, with more expected to emerge as crunch time for the 2020 election approaches. The current officeholder, Dan Forest, of course, is running for governor in 2020.