May 6, 2019/Press

What They’re Saying: “Typical Washington Politician” Thom Tillis Draws GOP Challenger, “Ripe for Competitive Primary”

Raleigh – Vulnerable Republican Senator Thom Tillis faced another setback yesterday, as wealthy businessman Garland Tucker filed paperwork to primary him. Senator Tillis earned his primary with a rough spring that started with an “Olympic gold flip-flop” on the emergency declaration that left local Republicans “not happy with the way Senator Tillis seems not to support the president.” Conservative leaders in his own party to decline to endorse or “fully support” him, and Tillis saw his approval rating among Republican voters drop 12 points since the start of the year – causing him to “lose credibility with North Carolina Republicans.” Now, Tillis is facing a legitimate primary challenger who “has the ability to self-fund and could force Tillis to the right in the primary” – a disaster for “one of Republicans’ most vulnerable senators” who “started off the cycle at a slower fundraising clip.”

Read what reporters in North Carolina and across the country are saying about Tillis’ new primary:

  • “Like a lot of conservatives, I look at Washington and just shake my head. Tillis is sort of a typical Washington politician,” [said Carter Wrenn.] – News & Observer
  • Republican Sen. Thom Tillis will face a primary challenge in his bid for re-election in 2020, a development that places loyalty to President Trump at the center of what will likely be one of the most competitive Senate races this cycle … Polling suggests Mr. Tillis’s political standing suffered following his about-face on the national emergency. – Wall Street Journal
  • Should Tillis move right to secure a primary win, he’ll be left scrambling to return to the center for the general election. There he’ll face charges of flip-flopping and vilified for enabling an erratic, unfit president. – Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
  • Critics of Tillis have considered him ripe for a competitive GOP primary. Some hard-right conservatives were unhappy when Tillis initially said he’d oppose President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. He ultimately voted for it. – AP
  • “Running against an incumbent is an uphill climb, but Tillis is a surprisingly vulnerable incumbent,” Wrenn said … Even before Tucker jumped into the race, a primary challenge against Tillis had been widely expected. – Washington Post
  • Tillis’ critics have long considered him a target in the GOP primary. Tillis received quite a bit of backlash a few weeks ago when he initially opposed President Trump’s national emergency declaration over border security before ultimately changing his mind and voting for it. – WXII
  • Critics of Tillis were unhappy when Tillis initially said he’d oppose President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border and then ultimately voted for it. They say Tillis is ripe for a competitive primary. – WWAY
  • Underlining this point, in a recent interview key Trump ally and fellow North Carolinian Mark Meadows declined an opportunity to endorse Tillis … The question is: is running as Trump’s ally and defender a wise plan in a purple state like North Carolina. While it might do well during a GOP primary, will that message resonate during the general election? That’s the fine line Tillis and other GOP lawmakers will have to walk in 2020. – Spectrum News


  • Retired businessman Garland Tucker III is launching a primary challenge to North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, one of Republicans’ most vulnerable senators in 2020. As most primaries have been since President Donald Trump was elected, this one is already being made into a contest over loyalty to the president, which could complicate the GOP’s efforts to defend an increasingly competitive state in 2020. – Roll Call


  • “When he looks at Tillis, Tillis is a Washington politician, who talks a good game, but when you look at how he votes it doesn’t match up,” Wrenn said, later adding that the first-term Republican senator has “his finger to the air and he flip flops” on the issues … Tucker’s expected primary challenge to Tillis comes as Democrats see North Carolina as an increasingly likely electoral target. The historically red state has become friendlier territory for Democrats in recent years and is expected to be a prime political battleground in 2020. – The Hill


  • So the North Carolina Senate primary is likely to resemble earlier editions in Alabama in 2017 and Arizona and Indiana in 2018, in which loyalty to Trump became the only real issue. – New York Magazine


  • Tillis was notably criticized by some in his caucus for voting alongside Democrats to block President Trump’s national emergency declaration and supporting legislation that protected special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Tillis eventually flipped and voted in favor of the national emergency after receiving backlash for his initial decision. – Talking Points Memo


  • Tillis faces low approval within his own party; a recent Morning Consult poll showed him with 51% of Republicans approving of his job. – PoliticsNC


  • “Historic” is by far the best adjective to characterize the pending Tucker-Tillis bout. It will be the first time since 1972 a sitting senator in North Carolina faced a significant primary challenge and the first primary against a sitting Republican senator … “This is a classic insider-outsider race,” veteran North Carolina political analyst Marc Rotterman told Newsmax. “K Street, home of the lobbyists, will definitely be with Sen. Tillis. So, I think it will be a hard sell to position Sen. Tillis as pro-Trumper – particularity on the issue of the border wall and illegal immigration as well as spending issues.” – NewsMax


  • As one of the least popular senators in the United States, Thom Tillis (RINO-NC) was sure to draw some challengers for the 2020 Republican primary. The real question was, though, would the incumbent draw a challenger serious and well-funded enough to actually unseat him. That question seems to have been answered affirmatively with the filing of Raleigh businessman Garland Tucker. And judging by the way he is already attacking Tucker, Tillis seems a tad unnerved by the challenge. – First in Freedom Daily


  • It’s been almost 2 months since Tillis flipped on the Trump-border emergency, having been promised a legislative debate on the National Emergencies Act. Anyone have any update on that debate? Seems to have gone quiet. – @pkcapitol


  • Could be an interesting primary, even if Tillis wins relatively easily. Between having to spend money and tacking to the right. #ncpol – @MurphinDC


  • Tillis (R-N.C.) infamously flip-flopped on the president’s phony emergency declaration. Beyond that, Tillis has been among the many passive go-alongers in the GOP – @JRubinBlogger