Ellmers highlights jobs, health care and education in bid for third term

Jul. 22, 2014 @ 06:52 PM

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers had no intention of running for office when she first began speaking out against the Affordable Care Act at public events. She simply saw herself as a health care professional obligated to share her thoughts on how the president's health care plan would affect the nation.

"I had been a nurse for about 20 years," Ellmers told The Herald recently. "My husband is a general surgeon. We're dedicated to health care.

"When the president was putting forward his plan of action for health care, which is basically a nationalized health care system run by the federal government, we knew it would be devastating to health care administration and, as a result, devastating to the economy as well. Health care is a large part of the economy."

Ellmers (R-N.C.) is the U.S. representative for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, which includes Lee, Chatham and Harnett counties. She is up for reelection for her third term after defeating the Democratic incumbent, Bob Etheridge, in 2010 and Democratic challenger Steve Wilkins in 2012.

Ellmers grew up in Michigan, where she attended nursing school and met her husband, Brent.

When Ellmers came to North Carolina with her husband and son, Ben, now 19, who was 3 at the time, to visit relatives, she instantly fell in love with the state. 

But in the summer of 2009, Ellmers began speaking out about something she didn't like — the Affordable Care Act.

"By that fall," she said, "in talking with some of my friends who were Republicans, the question was posed to me — 'You know health care. You're a nurse. You're a mom. Why don't you run against Bob Etheridge?'"

Ellmers said it had never crossed her mind to run for office, but once the questioned had been posed to her, it seemed like the right thing to do.

"Being someone that's lived in the real world, as a mom paying bills, trying to make ends meet, I thought my voice would be very strong," Ellmers said.

Improving health care was the platform that launched Ellmers's political career, but since then she has focused on a number of other issues she said are plaguing North Carolina and the country.

"Obamacare is one of top issues," Ellmers said. "Jobs and [revitalizing] the economy for my constituents in District 2 are the top issues."

Ellmers lamented the roadblocks Republicans have faced in passing legislation to improve government efficiency and revive what she called a stagnant economy.

"We've passed 290-plus bills that will create jobs, will turn the economy around, will cut government red tape and will [create] a more efficient federal government that will work for the American people.

"And they are sitting on Harry Reid's desk in the Senate. For those back home in North Carolina who are expecting us to get something done in Washington, I would highlight the fact that we are working very hard with no help from the Senate or the president."

Earlier this month, Ellmers introduced the Audit Improvement and Reform Act, which she said would ease the burden of federal audits on suppliers of durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies.

"Audits are put in place for the specific reason of finding fraud and waste," she said. "The problem is, they're not targeting the right folks for that. Fraud is, unfortunately, throughout the system. But those who are known perpetrators of fraud not being dealt with.

"But where these auditors are going after the good guys [who provide] good health care services and products to our seniors, going in and auditing them. It's an expense to those providers."

Ellmers also touched on her views on education, saying she believed money needed to make its way to the classroom. She stressed the need to avoid bureaucracy and extra administrative costs as much as possible.

"Give our states more autonomy in decision-making for education," Ellmers said, listing her goals for education reform. "Get dollars into classrooms. Make the system run more efficiently.

"[We need to streamline] the system so dollars get to places where they need to go."

Ellmers also mentioned the importance of a strong community college system in North Carolina and said government red tape made it difficult to maintain a skilled labor force.

"Those out of work should be able to go to community college, get the skills they need and get out into the workforce," she said.

Ellmers said the most important focus in revitalizing North Carolina's economy would be providing small businesses the tools they need to succeed and expand.

"Small businesses are the drivers of jobs," Ellmers said. "And women-owned small businesses are growing every day. That's an important perspective to keep in mind. The majority of small businesses are being started by women. ... The majority of jobs are created in small businesses."

Ellmers said that Washington is broken, and that she has not seen any real plan of action from the president on the issues facing North Carolina and the rest of the country. She said she believes swift, decisive action is needed on health care, education and the economy, and that all three are suffering from too much bureaucracy and government red tape.



Name: Renee Ellmers

Age: 50

Place of birth: Ironwood, Mich.

Career: Registered nurse; Congresswoman

Education: Oakland University School of Nursing in Rochester, Mich.

Previous elected offices: Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010; reelected in 2012

Renee Ellmers was born in the upper peninsula of Michigan and moved down to Detroit when she was very young, where her father worked in the auto industry.

Ellmers was the middle child and only daughter among three children, with an older and younger brother. She put herself through college because her parents could not afford to send her. She is the only one of her siblings who received a college education and said it took her eight years to complete, as she had to work to pay for it.

Ellmers met her husband, Brent, a general surgeon, while working as a nurse at Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oak, Mich. They got married and moved to Louisville, Ky., for a few years, where they had their son, Ben.

Ellmers said her family went to visit relatives in Cary and were enraptured with North Carolina. They began looking for general surgeon openings in the state and found one in Dunn. After touring the city and meeting people from the area, Ellmers and her husband decided to make North Carolina their home.

"It has a little bit of everything," Ellmers said of the Tar Heel State. "The people are so nice, and you certainly can't beat the weather."