Ellmers Faces Three Challengers in GOP Primary
Congresswoman Renee Ellmers is facing a challenge from three other Republican candidates in next Tuesday’s primary election.
Clement F. Munno, of Aberdeen; Sonya Holmes, of Broadway; and Richard Speer, of Fayetteville, are opposing the first-term congresswoman in the redrawn 2nd Congressional District. Under redistricting enacted last year by the N.C. General Assembly, Moore County was moved from the 6th to the 2nd District.
Ellmers, considered a rising star in the tea party movement, narrowly defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge two years ago. He is now running for governor.
Some of her opponents have characterized her as being out of touch with voters of the district and that she has strayed from conservative tea party principles.
“In the last election, we had a chance to send a true conservative to Washington,” Speer said. “She was preaching limited government. She was part of the tea party movement. Unfortunately, she seemed to be pulled aside by the big government Republicans and more moderate Republicans, like John Boehner.”
Ellmers takes exception to that contention.
“I was never a self-designated tea party candidate,” she said of her campaign two years ago. “My values, my concerns on the economy and where we are heading are certainly right in line with their (tea party) thinking. I am extremely conservative.”
She pointed out that she was recently ranked the 15th most conservative member of the U.S. House.
All four candidates agree that the economy and controlling federal spending are the top priorities.
The following are brief biographical summaries of the candidates and some of their positions, in alphabetical order:
Ellmers said she feels good about her record during her first term in Congress and that she wants to continue “the fight” for two more years.
“The No. 1 issue in this country is the economy and jobs,” she said. “Everything we’re doing in Washing-ton is about that. I want to keep that fight up. We are creating legislation to make it easier for job creators to invest in their businesses and hire more people.”
Ellmers said she also wants continue the fight to “fully repeal Obamacare” and downsize government.
“We’ve been able to accomplish some things, but more needs to be done,” she said.
Ellmers said the Republican-controlled House will continue to push for a balanced budget.
“It can be done,” she said. “What we need is a willing partner in the Senate. The Senate has not put out a budget in three years. We are working without a budget.”
She said that improving the economy will also help in that regard.
“If we get our job creators hiring again, we can get the budget balanced a lot sooner,” she said.
Ellmers said an accusation from Speer that she voted for budgets that included funding for President Obama’s health care reform law is untrue.
“Some of that was already in place when we got here,” she said. “We certainly haven’t been funding Obamacare. We are putting forth legislation to defund it. I am committed to repealing it.”
Ellmers, whose father worked in the auto industry, was born in Michigan. She graduated from Oakland University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, according to biographical information on her campaign website. A year later, working as a surgical intensive care nurse at Beaumont Hospital, she met her husband, Brent, a graduate of the University of Indiana School of Medicine.
While visiting family in Cary, Ellmers and her husband and their son moved to North Carolina. She works with her husband as clinical director of the Trinity Wound Care Center in Dunn.
She served as vice president of community development for the Chamber of Commerce, served on the Dunn Planning Board, the board of the Betsy Johnson Hospital Foundation and the Harnett County Nursing Home Committee.
In 2009, she and her husband attended a town hall meeting to hear Etheridge speak on behalf of President Obama’s health care plan. Later, as a volunteer, she became an outspoken critic of government-run health care and decided to run for Congress in 2010.
Holmes, a 48-year-old married mother of two daughters, was raised on a farm in Harnett County that has been in her family for five generations. She owns and operates a poultry contract growing business on the farm.
She said on her campaign website that “the final straw for me that caused me to mount this campaign was the shutdown of the Omtron/Townsend plant in Siler City, affecting over 150 farmers and more than 400 plant employees, in one fell swoop.” In an interview, she blames the shutdown on government red tape.
“Government regulations are becoming too numerous,” she said. “They are killing jobs.”
Holmes said she is also concerned about what she termed “unconstitutional laws being passed by Congress.” She cited a section in the National Defense Authorization bill passed last year and signed into law by President Obama that she said allows the military to apprehend and detain someone indefinitely without probable cause. She said Ellmers voted to pass the bill.
“I was asked by a number of constituents to run because they don’t feel they are being represented in Washington,” she said. “I never thought I would run for public office.
“If the direction of the country isn’t changed soon, my grandkids won’t see a free America.”
Holmes said her first job was with the electronics manufacturer Trion Inc. in Sanford. After 10 years with Trion, Holmes said she decided to go back to school and earn a degree in criminal justice. During that time, she also worked as a machine operator with a furniture manufacturer.
This is her first run for public office.
“It’s definitely a learning experience,” she said. “I am making a lot of personal appearances around the district. It has all been face-to-face. I have always been interested about what is happening in our capital.”
Clement F. Munno
Munno moved to Moore County in 2004 after retiring from a civil service career. During that time, he said he worked in 10 to 12 major departments. He said he has an intimate understanding of how the federal government works, which would serve him well in Congress.
“I don’t like the way things are going in Washington,” he said when asked why he decided to run. “For our kids and grandkids, we have amassed a $16 trillion debt. In the next five years, it will be $20 trillion. I would not vote to increase the debt ceiling. We need more efficient government.”
Munno said one of the first areas he would work to reform is in the area of government contracting.
“There is a lot of waste up there, and cutting that won’t affect one program,” he said. “That won’t do it all. We need to return education to the states. The federal government adds nothing to education. It is just spending money.”
Munno said the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency also need to be reigned in. He contends that many of its regulations “have no basis in the law.”
Munno said he believes the federal government has “wandered away from the Constitution, step by step. The federal government was to have limited power that states didn’t have.”
He also said the country does not need to be cutting back on defense.
“I am not saying we need unlimited spending,” he said. “But we need a strong military that can defend us and has quick strike ability.”
Munno, who was born in New Castle, Pa., enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1962 and served three years as a dental technician, with training as a medic. He worked in the airline industry for three years before starting his career civil service with the federal government in 1968.
In 1996, he retired from civil service and went to work in the private sector. In 2007 he started his own company, Bronze Star, Inc., that grew to 135 employees in 2010. He sold his company in December 2011. He said he wanted to become more involved in finding solutions to the nation’s problems.
“I am not going up there for a career, six years at the most,” he said. “I’ve seen that city corrupt people with the power and money. Our government was intended to have citizen legislators, not career politicians. We’re not there to represent a political party. We are there to represent the people.
“I know my way around Washington. I think I can do a better job. I am the guy to get things headed in the right direction. I am the fix-it guy.”
Speer, 54, who is retired from the U.S. Army Special Forces, said he supported Ellmers two years ago.
Speer said that while Ellmers was “preaching against Obamacare” and sponsored legislation to repeal it, she voted for federal budgets that provided funding for the president’s health care reform bill. He also criticized Ellmers for voting to raise the federal debt ceiling.
“The president made a threat, and they collapsed,” Speer said. “We need better leadership.”
Speer said the federal budget can be balanced.
“We can’t just keep spending money we don’t have,” Speer said. “Balancing the budget means cutting or eliminating some programs. Something has to give. We’re going to spend ourselves into collapse.”
Speer said he would support curbing the amount of government regulation.
“We need some regulations,” he said. “But what is coming out of Washington is crushing business. It is stifling economic development.”
Speer said he would start with Department of Energy, which was created 35 years ago.
“We have been funding all of this research, and the fact of the matter is that is not viable,” he said. “If it were, the private sector would have picked up on it. The technology is not there. We’re spending money on pipe dreams.”
Speer was also critical of the Department of Education for “levying more and more regulations that cost the citizens and the states money.” He cited a recent mandate that will lead to an increase in the price of school lunches as an example.
Speer, whose father was a jet mechanic in the Air Force, enlisted in the Army in March 1976, shortly before graduating from high school in Las Vegas. In 1988, Speer completed the Special Forces Qualification Course and spent the remainder of his career assigned to various Special Forces units at Fort Bragg until retiring in July 1998.
He then went to work for a security firm as a nuclear security consultant, providing consulting services at more than two-thirds of the 63 nuclear power stations across the country. In 2009, he came back to North Carolina and took a job as a nuclear security specialist with Progress Energy at its corporate office in Raleigh.
Speer said he has spent more than 35 years of his life in the area and says he is a “true conservative.”
“A lot of things need to be fixed in Washington,” he said, “so our children and grandchildren will have the same opportunities we did.”
Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or email@example.com
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