September 30, 2019/Press

FLASHBACK: “Tea party activists remain wary of Thom Tillis in US Senate race” [Charlotte Observer]

Raleigh – Senator Tillis is “in the pocket of special interest.” “There’s not a lot of excitement out there.” “There is no way we could even remotely get behind him.” “If Tillis loses by one vote, then so be it.”

Those quotes came from conservative activists in 2014. But they could have just as easily been said today, as Senator Tillis continues to struggle with Republican primary voters amid a primary challenge from self-funding conservative businessman Garland Tucker.

This summer alone, Tillis faced “a chorus of boos” at not one but two Trump rallies. Polls confirmed more GOP primary voters disapprove of him than approve. He was forced to spend half his campaign cash to “blunt criticism from within his own party” (where he couldn’t even edit out the sound of his own party booing him at a Trump rally). And Republican voters still distrust Tillis, saying that they “don’t like him,” calling him “wishy-washy” and “a fair-weather friend,” and that “I won’t be voting for him.”

That distrust runs deep because Senator Tillis is a weak-kneed, self-serving Washington politician who’s in the pocket of special interests and who puts his political career before his own constituents, which is why “voters of all ideological stripes simply don’t trust Tillis.

Charlotte Observer: Tea party activists remain wary of Thom Tillis in US Senate race
By Jim Morrill
September 30, 2014

Key Points:

  • Tea Party champion Rand Paul will campaign alongside Thom Tillis in Raleigh Wednesday morning, trying to shore up a base that could threaten North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate hopeful.
  • Entering the final month of his race against Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, Tillis faces lingering resistance from libertarian and tea party conservatives.
  • “There is no way we could even remotely get behind him,” said Jane Billello, who chairs the Asheville Tea Party. “We would have to abandon and betray everything we believe in. And it’s not going to happen.”
  • Tillis won 47 percent of the vote in May’s GOP primary. But nearly as many voters cast ballots for his top two conservative challengers. Getting them to vote for Tillis appears to be a struggle.
  • Many tea party conservatives are disaffected with Tillis.
  • That stems in part from his refusal to attend several tea party-sponsored primary debates and the perception that he’s the establishment candidate who represents politics as usual. Last November, a dozen sign-carrying tea party activists protested a Charlotte fundraiser for Tillis that featured former White House adviser Karl Rove.
  • Primary opponents Greg Brannon and Mark Harris sought to cast Tillis as an insider with ties to special interests. And in an email to her members Tuesday, Bilello wrote, “Both Hagan and Tillis have very long track records with political elites and corporatists.”
  • Brant Clifton, who publishes a conservative website The Daily Haymaker, said “There’s not the excitement out there.”
  • “These are not people who are going to be dragging their friends and neighbors out of the house to vote for Thom,” he said.
  • While Tillis has the support of establishment Republicans such as Gov. Pat McCrory and Rove, Blinson said many conservatives perceive him to be “in the pocket of special interests.”
  • Some activists say they’re ready to ditch party loyalty in the favor of a third party or even a write-in candidate more closely aligned with their views. Libertarian Sean Hough continues to poll in single digits.
  • “There are a number of folks who will no long hold their nose and vote for a candidate just because they happen to be a member of a party,” said Christian Hine, leader of a Charlotte tea party group called CAUTION. “By continually giving people we don’t support our vote, we really can never expect to see the change we really want.”
  • Bilello of the Asheville Tea Party said Paul, a U.S. senator from Kentucky, could “lose trust and credibility with the grass roots” by campaigning for Tillis. On Thursday night her group will host write-in candidate John Rhodes, a Huntersville real estate broker and former state lawmaker Tillis defeated in 2006 to win his first term in the legislature.
  • Pat Kleinmaier, who heads a Winston-Salem group called FOCUS, said her group is split. Some, including her, plan to write in Rhodes.
  • And if her vote were to make the difference in re-electing Hagan, or even Reid?
  • “If Tillis loses by one vote,” she said, “then so be it.”