RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. George Holding won the year’s only congressional primary between incumbents, ousting Rep. Renee Ellmers on Tuesday from a redrawn district that includes much of the territory that elected him before.
The final weeks of the race became a feud on the airwaves over conservative credentials, with heavy spending by the two candidates and more than $1 million from outside groups attacking Ellmers.
Holding won by a wide margin over Ellmers and doctor Greg Brannon. It was the first time two sitting members of Congress have run against each other since 2012.
Holding said he was happy that voters rewarded his efforts to do the right thing in Washington.
“This primary gave me the opportunity to learn that people do notice,” he told reporters.
Holding is expected to have a strong chance of winning the Republican-leaning district in November, when he’ll face Democratic nominee John McNeil of Raleigh. Holding, a former federal prosecutor, was first elected in 2012.
Ellmers, first elected in 2010, lamented the spending by outside groups in a statement issued Tuesday night.
“I have sought to be an effective legislator, providing common sense conservative solutions to everyday problems. Unfortunately, today the special interest groups, super PACs and their deep pockets won,” she said.
The race between incumbents was set up by court-ordered redistricting in February that moved Ellmers’ 2nd District to the north and east, absorbing much of Holding’s old 13th.
In Apex, retiree Hugo Canedo said he voted for Holding because he was the most conservative of the three candidates.
“I agree with him 100 percent. I’m very conservative,” Canedo said.
After federal judges struck down two North Carolina congressional districts in February as illegally race-based, state lawmakers redrew the map of 13 districts and split the congressional contest off from the March presidential primary.
The Holding and Ellmers campaigns have each spent more than $1 million during the election cycle, along with the money poured in by other groups.
Outside help for Ellmers came over the weekend when she was endorsed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who told voters in a recording that he needed her help in Washington.
Holding said Tuesday that Trump is “not in my good books at the moment,” but that he will support his party’s nominee for president.
Boosting Holding’s candidacy, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and American Foundations Committee have spent well over $1 million combined, accusing Ellmers of not being conservative on fiscal issues and failing to challenge President Barack Obama’s administration.
The ads made an impression on voter Mark Montgomery of Wake Forest, who ruled out Ellmers because of her record on spending.
“She didn’t do what she promised, and instead followed the Washington elite,” said the attorney, who voted for Brannon. “She didn’t hold Obama’s feet to the fire.”
Associated Press writers Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh and Emery P. Dalesio in Apex contributed to this report.