Thom Tillis, currently Speaker of the House in the North Carolina House of Representatives and representing the 98th District, is running for the Republican party nomination for the U.S. Senate. He's seeking to replace Democrat senator Kay Hagan, up for reelection after her first term.
While Hagan's poll numbers are dismal, Tillis is tainted by the hard-right views of the state legislature, which he took a large part in creating. Their signature accomplishment, tax reform, is proving to be highly unpopular with many of the state's residents. Tillis remains unapologetic, saying that it is a “reform agenda unlike any other state in the United States.” He's been the first Republican in the race to roll out TV ads, which has bolstered his already high name recognition in the state.
The current frontrunner, Tillis is but one of a number of GOP candidates combating for the right to face Hagan in November. He'll have to fend off primary challenges from Greg Brannon, a physician endorsed by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, and nurse practitioner Heather Grant of Wilkesboro, among others. The big question: can Tillis consolidate the support of party stalwarts to win the nomination without alienating independent voters in the general election?
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Thomas Roland "Thom" Tillis, a Jacksonville, FL native, was born 30 August 1960 into "a working class family" and, according to his website, "worked his way through college with a combination of community college and extension courses, graduating at age 36."
Despite his modest roots, Tillis amassed considerable personal wealth before turning to politics. He was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (now known as PwC), the multinational professional services firm based in London. He left the venerable firm in 2002 when PwC's consultancy business merged with IBM Global Business Services. He led a management consulting practice for IBM until 2009 when he departed, having already been a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives since 2007. He's aroused the ire of state Democrats, who liken him to Mitt Romney and describe him as a "wealthy corporate boardroom guy surrounded by white men in suits."
Tillis has resided in the North Mecklenburg area with his wife Susan and two children since 1998, living previously in Fairfax, VA. His wife is a realtor specializing in residential real estate sales in the resort area of Lake Norman. Before his run for the North Carolina House, he served on the Cornelius, NC Town Board.
PHOTO CREDIT: LAKE NORMAN 'CITIZEN'
Will Thom Tillis Be Clean Enough for Tarheel Voters?
While Tillis and other North Carolina Republicans attempt to finger Hagan to Obamacare, as noted above, Democrats compare him to failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It's true that Tillis has been very successful in business and, as his opponents point out, favors policies that benefit the wealthy. He also holds positions dear to to social conservatives such as his support of a 24 hour information period before abortion, voter ID legislation and defining marriage between one man and one woman.
Tillis and his political allies have galvanized opposition from immigration, labor and civil rights groups in the form of "Moral Mondays." Every Monday since April 29, 2013, protestors have rallied at the state capitol in Raleigh objecting to Tillis' agenda that includes the expansion of school vouchers, slashing unemployment benefits and social programs for the poor and tax "reform" that has cut individual and corporate income taxes while broadening the sales tax. Tillis has actually looked moderate compared to the vitriol of his GOP colleagues. Thom Goolsby, chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, calls the protests "Moron Mondays," attended by "mostly white, angry, aged former hippies." Governor McCrory refused to meet with Moral Monday leaders and calls the protests "illegal assemblies." Tillis, no doubt mindful of voter perception of his senate candidacy, appealed to "lower the volume and sit down and talk and show some mutual respect."
There has also been some question regarding Tillis' ethics, an issue no doubt to be sounded by Democrats should he emerge as the GOP standard bearer against Hagan. In September, 2013 Tillis went on record extending tax incentives for filmmakers in North Carolina. Less than a fortnight later, he received $28,600 in campaign contributions from California-based Screen Gems. Earlier in June, the Charlotte 'Observer' reported that payday lenders had ponied up at least $1.8 million since 2010 to hire 20 lobbyists and channel $300K to mostly influential Republican lawmakers. Tillis shepherded the industry bill through the lege; Gov. McCrory, another recipient of the payday manna from heaven, signed the bill into law on June 19. The payday loan law raised interest rates and fees on consumer finance loans extended to low-income debtors. Less than a week after the bill became state law, Time Investment Corp. president Royce Everette co-hosted a fundraiser for the Tillis Senate campaign.
Is it a quid pro quo? Tillis' actions have raised eyebrows across the state in light of his 2010 barnstorming tour across North Carolina deploring "the pay-to-play culture" that he claimed Democrats used to dominate the legislative process. And while it is illegal in North Carolina for state lawmakers to take campaign donations from lobbyists, there is no such restriction on federal campaigns.
What I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers."
Below are some of Thom Tillis' positions on national and foreign policy issues, as well as his view of the federal government's role in Americans' lives. Bear in mind this website is constantly updated as Tillis declares or clarifies his position on the issues that will determine whether or not he is elected as United States Senator for North Carolina in 2014.
Predictably, Tillis is tough on criminals. He voted to expand prisons so convicted felons would serve their entire sentences. He also voted to limit the use of racial statistics in death penalty cases and supports sex offender registration and "all measures" to track and monitor repeat offenders.
"We cannot let pressure on the judicial system and crowding in our jails prevent us from our obligation to remove criminals from the vast majority of the population who are productive, law abiding citizens. If you commit a serious crime, you must go to jail and you must serve your sentence."
Also to no one's surprise, Tillis -- like every other NC Republican in this election cycle -- is hitting Hagan hard on Obamacare. He's vowed to use every means available to undo the Affordable Care Act. Ontheissues.org noted that virtually every GOP candidate vying for the Senate in 2014 supported the October federal government shutdown. Tillis was no exception, calling Obamacare "a mortal threat to our economy."
Already, "dark money" has crept into the North Carolina senate race, as the Senate Majority super PAC (run by former aides to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Reid) has spent $750,000 on a 30 second TV ad in December defending Hagan and her support of the Affordable Care Act while going after Tillis. The previous month, the super PAC spent $400,000 on a similar ad. It's obvious who the Democrats think their opponent will be come November.
"Republicans should do everything in our power to undo it. That means using every tool available to us including this CR (Continuing Resolution) fight."
On his campaign website, Tillis trumpets his "massive" tax reform initiative that lowered personal income taxes across the board in North Carolina and slashed business taxes by over $2.4 billion over the coming five years. He also worked to eliminate the existing three-tiered tax bracket system in favor of a "fair" flat state income tax. In an unmistakable dig at the incumbent junior senator, Tillis boasts that he "led the effort to cut taxes by $1.5 billion by allowing Kay Hagan’s tax increases to expire."
Tillis is a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment, favoring an absolute right to gun ownership. In May 2013, he voted to authorize concealed carry of firearms in certain public places in North Carolina. Note that this bill did not apply to those with concealed handgun permits.
"As an NRA member, my strong support for the Second Amendment is unquestioned. I am proud of Kentucky's long-held gun ownership, sporting and hunting traditions. It is unfortunate that Senator McConnell is desperate to mislead Kentucky voters about my strong support for the Second Amendment."
From his website, Tillis is "committed to defending the institution of the traditional family. He believes that marriage is between one man and one woman and believes in protecting the rights of the unborn." Certain that, in the words of Monty Python, "every sperm is sacred," Tillis spearheaded pro-life policies, requiring a 24 hour waiting period before an abortion. Again, per his website, he "helped reverse the pro-abortion state policies Democrats had put in place for decades" and will work to appoint "qualified" pro-life judges.