Republican Rival Says Tillis Should Step Down as Speaker

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Thom Tillis (R) North Carolina during an interview at Roll Call in Washington, D.C.
National Journal
Josh Kraushaar
April 7, 2014, 11:42 a.m.

PINE­HURST, N.C. — The North Car­o­lina Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate primary, less than a month away, has been an un­usu­ally low-key af­fair, with state House Speak­er Thom Tillis work­ing ag­gress­ively to avoid a run­off against sev­en less­er-known chal­lengers.

But one of his lead­ing chal­lengers, Rev. Mark Har­ris, is hop­ing to stir things up and is plan­ning to re­peatedly cri­ti­cize Tillis’s de­cision to re­main as House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er while run­ning for the Sen­ate. Tillis is able to raise money for his Sen­ate cam­paign from lob­by­ists with in­terests be­fore the state’s Gen­er­al As­sembly, but it’s il­leg­al to raise such funds for his state le­gis­lat­ive cam­paigns.

Fram­ing the speak­er’s con­duct as “pay to play,” Har­ris sug­ges­ted the activ­ity was un­eth­ic­al.

“It would have been bet­ter judg­ment for him to step down as speak­er. It opens the door for ques­tions of eth­ics to be raised,” Har­ris told Na­tion­al Journ­al, ar­guing that it could be­come a glar­ing vul­ner­ab­il­ity if Tillis wins the GOP nom­in­a­tion against Sen. Kay Hagan. “If I had one thing to do dif­fer­ently [in the cam­paign], I would have de­man­ded he step down as speak­er in Oc­to­ber.”

Tillis has been tout­ing him­self as the most elect­able can­did­ate at Re­pub­lic­an events, in­clud­ing a Monday for­um at the Pine­hurst Re­sort — home of the 2014 U.S. Open — sponsored by the Moore (County) Re­pub­lic­an Wo­men. At the for­um, Tillis an­nounced his sup­port today from Na­tion­al Right to Life, a ma­jor re­buke to Har­ris, who is run­ning as the race’s lead­ing so­cial con­ser­vat­ive.

If Tillis doesn’t win 40 per­cent of the vote in the May 6 primary, he will be forced in­to a run­off, one that would co­in­cide with the next ses­sion of the Gen­er­al As­sembly, which be­gins May 14.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing that in­stead of unit­ing con­ser­vat­ives, some cam­paigns are try­ing to use des­per­ate and di­vis­ive tac­tics against oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans,” said Tillis cam­paign man­ager Jordan Shaw. “Thom Tillis will re­main fo­cused on unit­ing con­ser­vat­ives and de­feat­ing Kay Hagan, and we are con­fid­ent that that mes­sage will res­on­ate with voters across North Car­o­lina.”

Har­ris also con­firmed to NJ that his cam­paign would start air­ing ads this week — his first ma­jor ad buy of the cam­paign. 

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