Pittsboro, NC – The race for the Second Congressional District is usually settled in the GOP primary. Since 2012, those primaries have been contentious affairs featuring under-funded, lesser-known Tea Party candidates going after ex-Tea Party darling Renee Ellmers.
Ellmers, in a position to load up on PAC money that allows her to control the narrative, was usually able to do just that against her underdog Tea Party primary challengers. Well, it looks like things will be different this time around.
Sources are telling us that former Chatham County GOP chairman Jim Duncan, a retired tech company executive with ties to numerous conservative and Tea Party groups, will submit paperwork to the FEC featuring fundraising totals that should have the DC GOP establishment reaching for their Maalox.
In exclusive interviews with folks intimately familiar with the inner workings of the Jim Duncan campaign, we’ve learned that Duncan has raised — between February 28 and June 30 — a total of $217,043.60. He has spent $34,989.72 and reports $182,053.88 in cash-on-hand as of June 30.
Contrast that with the performance of the incumbent Ellmers who, according to her April quarterly report (1-1-15 to 3-31-15) raised $195,644 and spent $127,458. According to her report, she has $220,351 on-hand.
Frank Roche, the other announced candidate in the GOP primary, is reporting raising — from 1-1 to 6-30 — a total of $12,792 and spending $9,420. He reports having $3,372 in cash on hand.
Longtime political observers will tell you it is a sign of trouble for an incumbent when a challenger can meet or beat the incumbent’s fundraising totals.
There is one caveat in connection with Duncan’s fundraising numbers. They include a $100,000 contribution of his own personal funds to the campaign. I asked a source close to the Duncan campaign about that:
”Some people will look at that and try to suggest that Jim Duncan is trying to buy a seat in Congress. That’s nonsense. Instead of taking money from special interests in exchange for a favor to be named later, Mr. Duncan is making sure he has skin in the game and that he doesn’t owe anybody.
He is a self-made man who pulled himself up from an early life in low-income housing to a very successful career in business. Jim Duncan is worried that the America he came along in — that allowed him to reap the benefits of his hard work — is fading away fast. He is not in this for an ego trip. He sincerely wants to join the fight to try and save this country for future generations.”
The source told me that 76 percent of Duncan’s campaign treasury comes from North Carolina residents. The remaining 24 percent comes from people spread across 15 different states. My source said 55 percent of the campaign’s individual contributions are in amounts less than $200. My source added:
”After nearly six years of this particular incumbent, people are excited to see someone like Jim Duncan come along. He’s not going to vote for a secret trade bill that no one is allowed to read, like the incumbent did, that gives Barack Obama a whole lot more power to wreck this economy.
Jim Duncan is not going to campaign as a principled conservative in the district and then go up to Washington and sell out on late-term abortion and amnesty for illegal aliens, like the incumbent in this district has. He is not going to allow himself to be owned by John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy, like this incumbent has. He’ll be his own man — answering only to the people of the district and God up above.”
So far, it looks like a three-way primary in May 2016. (There are whispers that a fourth candidate may be jumping in soon.) But the fundraising numbers are telling us, right now, that there are only two credible candidates vying for the GOP nomination in this district.