Thom Tillis Wins North Carolina GOP Senate Nomination

The state House speaker’s establishment-backed campaign now turns to the November contest in a crucial battleground race.

Thom Tillis (R) North Carolina during an interview at Roll Call in Washington, D.C.
National Journal
Andrea Drusch
May 6, 2014, 5:29 p.m.

North Car­o­lina state House Speak­er Thom Tillis will take on Demo­crat­ic Sen. Kay Hagan in Novem­ber after pulling to­geth­er enough sup­port dur­ing Tues­day’s Re­pub­lic­an primary to avoid a run­off and win the nom­in­a­tion out­right, the out­come many na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans hoped for.

Tillis, long con­sidered the GOP primary front-run­ner, earned 46 per­cent of the vote with 41 per­cent of pre­cincts re­port­ing when the As­so­ci­ated Press called the race Tues­day night. He needed at least 40 per­cent sup­port to avoid a run­off.

Tea-party act­iv­ist and phys­i­cian Greg Bran­non and pas­tor Mark Har­ris — Tillis’s two main rivals for the nom­in­a­tion — fin­ished with 27 per­cent and 17 per­cent, re­spect­ively. Five oth­er Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates di­vided the re­mainder.

The busi­ness-backed Tillis was the GOP es­tab­lish­ment’s an­swer to tea-party chal­lenges in the Tar Heel State and a vic­tory in their ef­fort to se­lect elect­able nom­in­ees in this year’s battle­ground Sen­ate con­tests. By Tues­day’s primary, Tillis had a de­cis­ive edge in name re­cog­ni­tion over his rivals, thanks in part to an ag­gress­ive spend­ing cam­paign from out­side groups work­ing on his be­half. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Karl Rove-backed group Amer­ic­an Cross­roads both backed Tillis, with Cross­roads spend­ing $1.6 mil­lion blitz to boost him even as Hagan, who is deeply en­dangered, tried to soften Tillis’s con­ser­vat­ive sup­port with ads us­ing a cut-off quote from the state le­gis­lat­or to make it look like he once sup­por­ted Obama­care.

Mean­while, Tillis un­der­cut con­ser­vat­ive rivals by se­cur­ing en­dorse­ments from the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation and Na­tion­al Right to Life. Bran­non and Har­ris, touted some big-name en­dorse­ments: Sen. Rand Paul backed Bran­non, while former Arkan­sas Gov. Mike Hucka­bee sup­por­ted Har­ris. But as the name-re­cog­ni­tion num­bers show, both failed to catch on, with one prin­cip­al reas­on be­ing a lack of funds. Head­ing in­to the fi­nal month of the primary, Tillis had out­raised them 3-to-1, and the out­side spend­ing made the dis­par­ity even worse.

What We're Following See More »
After Wikileaks Hack, DNC Staffers Stared Using ‘Snowden-Approved’ App
3 hours ago

The Signal app is fast becoming the new favorite among those who are obsessed with the security and untraceabilty of their messaging. Just ask the Democratic National Committee. Or Edward Snowden. As Vanity Fair reports, before news ever broke that the DNC's servers had been hacked, word went out among the organization that the word "Trump" should never be used in their emails, lest it attract hackers' attention. Not long after, all Trump-related messages, especially disparaging ones, would need to be encrypted via the Snowden-approved Signal.

Freedom Caucus Members May Bolt the RSC
5 hours ago

The Republican Study Committee may lose several members of the House Freedom Caucus next year, "potentially creating a split between two influential groups of House conservatives." The Freedom Caucus was founded at the inception of the current Congress by members who felt that the conservative RSC had gotten too cozy with leadership, "and its roughly 40 members have long clashed with the RSC over what tactics to use when pushing for conservative legislation." As many as 20 members may not join the RSC for the new Congress next year.

FDA Approves Emergency Zika Test
7 hours ago

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued emergency authorization for a Zika diagnostics test from Swiss drugmaker Roche, skirting normal approval channels as the regulator moves to fight the disease's spread." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a new study in Nature identifies "about a dozen substances" that could "suppress the pathogen's replication." Some of them are already in clinical trials.

Medicare Advantage Plans Overcharged Government
8 hours ago

According to 37 newly released audits, "some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated." A number of Medicare Advantage plans overstated "the severity of medical conditions like diabetes and depression." The money has since been paid back, though some plans are appealing the federal audits.

Omnibus Spending Bill Likely Getting a Lame-Duck Vote
8 hours ago

"GOP leaders and House Democrats are already laying the groundwork for a short-term continuing resolution" on the budget this fall "that will set up a vote on a catch-all spending bill right before the holidays." As usual, however, the House Freedom Caucus may throw a wrench in Speaker Paul Ryan's gears. The conservative bloc doesn't appear willing to accept any CR that doesn't fund the government into 2017.