Renee Ellmers is a registered nurse in North Carolina who left the doctor’s office she runs with her surgeon-husband to campaign for a seat in Congress.
The first-time GOP candidate says she was politically energized and driven to run for office mostly over the recent health care debate.
“One of my main objectives when going to Washington is to work on the repeal of the health care bill,” says Ellmers, who is challenging long-time Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge for North Carolina’s 2nd congressional seat.
Etheridge made national headlines — and gave Ellmers’ campaign a boost — earlier this summer when his on-camera altercation with two trackers asking him whether he supports Obama’s agenda became a YouTube sensation. A campaign spokesman for Etheridge, reached by phone, declined to comment for this article.
During an interview at a coffee shop in Washington, Ellmers often spoke of her husband and her shared frustration — saying “we” and “us”— with the new health care law.
“That is what got us very motivated,” said Ellmers, who was endorsed by Sarah Palin. “We started speaking out against it a year ago because we wanted people to understand that doctors and nurses were not necessarily in favor of it.”
Ellmers realizes she’s facing an uphill battle in her quest to defeat Etheridge. However, her campaign says an internal poll shows the race close and during Etheridge’s YouTube fiasco this summer, one poll showed her leading by one point. While there are dozens of doctors running for Congress this year, there are not very many nurses. Two exceptions are Diane Black, a candidate in Tennessee, and Tim Besco, a candidate in Texas, according to a GOP spokesman.
“This is our livelihood and, you know, we believe we have the best medical care in the world and to see it just kind of systematically taken apart by the administration is disheartening — but it’s devastating to the economy,” Ellmers said. “We’re already seeing effects of higher private insurance rates and seniors worried about what’s happening with their Medicare. It’s already showing itself.”
By managing with her husband a doctor’s office, Ellmers said, she’s operating a small business. And her business will lose money because of the new health care law, she claims. “We’ve seen the effects…right now, I mean, we’ve seen a downturn in our business. People don’t stop getting sick or needing to have surgery…They just deal with it instead of going to get care that they need,” she said.
Ellmers says the health care debate could have benefited from having more medical professionals in Congress. “I think that’s probably the reason you’re seeing the number of physicians running for office because I think they probably realize that this is just so devastating to health care, our profession,” she said.
WATCH: Ellmers discuss the health care bill