RALEIGH — Republican candidates running in the state’s 13th Congressional District race faced off at a forum held in a Raleigh suburb on April 25.
The eight Republicans running for the seat are Devan Barbour, Kelly Daughtry, Renee Ellmers, Bo Hines, Kent Keirsey, Jessica Morel, Chad Slotta and Kevin Wolff.
All eight candidates vying for the seat were invited to a forum hosted by the Western Wake Republican Club but only four confirmed their attendance and actually showed up; Barbour, Ellmers, Slotta and Wolff.
While Daughtry, Hines, Keirsey and Morel were no-shows, Daughtry sent a representative who made a brief statement on her behalf.
“I am the grassroots,” Barbour said in his opening remarks before going on to list his involvement in various aspects of the NC Republican Party. “I’ve been involved in North Carolina Republican politics and campaigns for 20 years.”
Slotta opened with a story about his daughter being the only student to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and said that “I am running for Congress to stand with her and to stand for my children’s future and the future of every American in what I feel is a battle for the soul of our country.”
Former U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers noted her six years of experience on Capitol Hill (2011-2017) in her opening remarks and that she was “the first woman in congress to endorse Donald Trump when he was running for president.”
“I’ve been a lifelong Republican – a Reagan Republican from the beginning when I started voting,” said Wolff. “And I’ll never forget that man and I vow to uphold his principles.” Wolff noted he was the first to attend college in his family and holds three degrees; electrical engineering, an MBA in finance, and a law degree.
Former state lawmaker Tom Murry moderated the event, posing questions on topics such as immigration, border security, the economy, education, voter ID, and the Second Amendment.
There was little deviation in positions on the major topics discussed among the candidates, with all four candidates present strongly backing protection of the Second Amendment, better border security policies and for resuming construction of a wall at the southern border.
In one way or another, all four supported the need for voter ID but opinions varied on federalizing the topic. Ellmers and Wolff both hit the courts for interfering with the voter ID amendment added to the North Carolina constitution by the voters of state.
Murray asked Ellmers a specific question on how she would do to ensure families were not separated from patients and the elderly from their families as was seen during the pandemic.
“We absolutely need policy whether it’s COVID or long-term care for our seniors,” Ellmers said, adding that she had heard heartbreaking stories of individuals dying alone. She went on to say we need policies that let families “sit at the bedside and be with those individuals.”
On Education, both Slotta and Barbour came out in strong favor of parental rights and against questionable ideological topics being inserted into K-12 subjects.
“Let me tell you something, you can teach my first grader about gender fluidity as soon as I can teach your first grader about Jesus,” Barbour said about a question he was asked by the Washington Post about the role of the federal government in education. “Until we have that level playing field, we have nothing to talk about.”
Slotta, who has spoken out about indoctrination issues and inappropriate books multiple times in front of the Wake County School Board, took aim at progressives.
“Here is what we see in the progressive left today. We see folks who think they know better than us how to spend our money, better than us how to educate and raise our children, better than us on what we put in and on our bodies,” said Slotta. “And I, like you, have had enough.”
In both his opening and closing statements, Barbour thanked the audience for being there and in his closing, he took a shot at the candidates who were absent.
“I appreciate that you showed up and I hope you appreciate that we showed up,” Barbour said gesturing to the other candidates.
In terms of fundraising, Daughtry and Democrat Wiley Nickel are the only two to break the million-dollar mark. Republicans Hines, Keirsey, and Slotta all followed with six-figure receipts and cash on hand – although most of their funding came from themselves.
Democratic candidates in the race include Nickel, Jamie Campbell Bowles, Nathan Click, Denton Lee, and former State Sen. Sam Searcy, who resigned his seat just over a month after the 2020 election. Searcy endorsed former State Rep. Sydney Batch as a replacement and she took over his seat following her loss to Republican Erin Paré.
Daughtry leads all candidates in fundraising so far with over $2.4 million and cash on hand of over $1.163 million as of Mar. 31, 2022. However, most of that is self-funding, as she made loans to her campaign last December totaling almost $2.2 million.
Nickel raised over $1.37 million and has just over $1 million on hand in the same filing period. Filings show that $900,000 of Nickel’s raised total is a loan to the campaign.
Part of Hines’ nearly $1 million total includes a loan of more than $525,000 by the candidate and similarly, Keirsey made a $200,000 loan and Slotta made a $335,000 loan.
Barbour has not put any personal money into the campaign as of March 31, but raised nearly $250,000 from individuals.
Ellmers’ latest filing puts her near last place for fundraising with about $20,000 in receipts, only $14,732 cash on hand, and an outstanding debt/loan to her campaign committee of $2,500.
The newly redrawn 13th district, now considered to be the most competitive in the state, covers all of Johnston County, parts of Harnett and Wayne counties, as well as the southern portion of Wake County.
According to the often-cited opinion poll analysis group FiveThirtyEight, the redistricting changes took the district from a +38 Republican lean down to a +3 lean. The conservative-leaning Civitas Institute’s Partisan Index has the district at a +1 Democratic lean.