God bless the Tar Heel State. North Carolina Republicans delivered conservatives the first defeat of an incumbent RINO this cycle. Renee Ellmers (F, 53%), who was endorsed by Donald Trump just days ago and has been one of the biggest thorns in the side of conservatives, went down in defeat in District 2.
Now before you all celebrate and render this as proof that conservatives can succeed under the current primary system in the long run, just remember that Ellmers only lost because the federal courts redrew the state’s districts, leading to a race that pitted her against another sitting member, George Holding. Rep. Holding is not exactly a stellar member; he is more of a leadership follower than a conservative leader. That Ellmers’ second place finish was so far behind Holding’s is something for conservatives to cheer.
In District 9, conservatives came heartbreakingly close to knocking off another mediocre incumbent, Robert Pittenger (F, 46%), when social conservative activist Mark Harris came within 142 votes of winning in a three-man race. Harris spearheaded North Carolina’s successful marriage fight a few years ago and has been an outspoken leader against the transgender jihad in the state.
In other good news for conservatives, the open seat in District 13 was won by Ted Budd, a gun range owner who had the support of the Club for Growth in a very crowded field. Budd was never elected to office before but had strong backing from grassroots activists. He and his wife are homeschooling parents.
Also, conservatives are well on their way to maintaining control of the state’s high court. With the court currently split 4-3 in favor of conservatives, and sitting conservative Associate Justice Robert Edmunds up for reelection, the future of the state’s highest court hangs in the balance in November. This election could not come at a more critical time with the legal profession launching transgender war against the state. In a quirky primary that is officially non-partisan and in which the top two vote-getters proceed to the general election, Edmunds received the most votes with 48%. His chief rival, a registered Democrat, got 34%. Thanks to a strong ground game from the state’s social conservative activists, Edmunds is in a strong position to win reelection.
In a cycle full of bad news for conservatives, we must savor any victory that comes across the wires. However, we must also understand that conservatives were helped by an incredibly low turnout given that the presidential and Senate elections were held earlier this year. And although we finally defeated a RINO incumbent, it was not at the hands of a grassroots conservative. Also, let’s not forget that RINO Sen. Richard Burr, who supports the transgender agenda, was just re-nominated for Senate in March.
In the long run, if conservatives really intend to change Washington, they must reform the way congressional nominees are selected in primaries. In a state like North Carolina, which has a terrific grassroots network, conservatives could sweep the delegation were they to switch from direct primaries to representative conventions.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its original publishing to reflect last night’s final vote tally in which Rep. Ellmers’ finished second, not third as data at the time of this article’s publishing indicated.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.