Republican Rival Says Tillis Should Step Down as Speaker

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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