U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis: Don’t call me ‘bipartisan’ or ‘dealmaker’

19 January 2023

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The Washington Post is out with a deep-dive profile about the newly flexed political clout of U.S. Senator Thom Tillis.

Two years into his second term and now North Carolina’s senior senator, Tillis has developed a reputation for helping make bipartisan deals in an increasingly hyperpartisan world.

Democrat Josh Stein is running for North Carolina governor. But who else may be on the ballot? We have names.

Those were apparent in the past few months as Congress worked through compromise legislation to address touchy topics such as gun control, same-sex and interracial marriage and election reform. And he worked down to the last days of December in an effort to facilitate immigration reform. “We made progress,” he said.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C. ) speaks with reporters last June about his gun control bill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“I don’t believe in this kumbaya, everybody-be-happy, lets-all-be-bipartisan [thing],” Tillis told The Post. “I think you’re bipartisan on a transactional basis. If you’re always bipartisan, then you’ve lost your mooring on your ideological worldview.”

Tills told the Post that he doesn’t consider himself a dealmaker and that he stays true to his conservative roots. He cited the religious protections in the same-sex marriage bill that he said will “age well.”

You also should note that he voted against the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill some of his colleagues pushed through in the final days of the session and has pushed for a full-on investigation of the classified files found in President Joe Biden’s former offices and residence.

But it’s clear in the piece that Tillis has both the ear and the respect of not only party leadership but members of all ideologies. That’s why he was a leader in a recent sojourn to the Southern border to see immigration issues face to face.

Sen. Thom Tills (R-N.C., center, rear) joins President Joe Biden and (from left) Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) during the signing of the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Oddly, he said he thinks the GOP’s new control of the House will impede any chance of getting a deal on immigration because there’s no compromise.

“All of those things lead me to believe that it’s highly unlikely that in the next three or four years that we will get anything done,” he said.

To that point, new House Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) called the immigration deal “garbage” and “dead” last week, according to Roll Call.

More about Tillis

In North Carolina, we know Tillis as a person who started out in business and rose through the General Assembly to be House speaker before taking on incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan to steal a Senate seat for the GOP in 2014. He then narrowly defeated Cal Cunningham in his re-election in 2022 by about 1.6 percentage points.

But the sprawling piece by the Post included significant insights into Tillis and his goals and some priceless little hints about his approach:

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)

He doesn’t pay attention to criticism and says he leaves his work at the office. “When I leave this building tonight, I won’t think about this stuff until I come back in this building tomorrow. God has blessed me with that,” he said.

He works well with Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who recently switched her affiliation from Democrat to independent, and the two talk sometimes six times a day.

He said he once dressed one of his dogs as Sinema for Halloween and the other as Mitch McConnell. You will have to create your own mental images.

Sinema says Tillis is “very straightforward. … He doesn’t hide the ball or move the ball.”

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More money for the Triad

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) (Courtesy of US House of Representatives)

That $25.56 million that Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) delivered to her 6th Congressional District as part of the omnibus bill wasn’t the end of the cash flow. On Wednesday Manning announced another $55,000 for three community arts initiatives in grants from the National Endowment of the Arts:

$10,000 to the Community Theatre of Greensboro to support programs for children and adults with varying abilities. 

$25,000 to Elsewhere Incorporated to support a site-specific artist residency program. 

$20,000 for the North Carolina Folk Festival.

“Visual, performing, and cultural arts add immense value to the community and provide a space for differing artistic expressions for all to enjoy. Moreover, support for artistic festivals and theaters benefits the local economy,” Manning, a principal in funding and building the Steven Tanger Center for Performing Arts, said in a release.

Candidate corner

When Attorney General Josh Stein this week became the first person to announce he is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2024, political science professor and Old North State Politics blogger Michael Bitzer of Catawba University shared his database of candidates for all offices in what North Carolinians call the “Council of State,” which is the group of cabinet-level officials who run the executive branch of state government.

Michael Bitzer

Bitzer includes speculated candidates – and there are four Republicans for governor – and the confirmed (such as four candidates for lieutenant governor). He also includes links to his sources for that information.

He has an interesting compilation:

He cites two speculated candidates to seek Stein’s job as AG: 14th District Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte) and Republican Ray Starling, a former chief of staff in the Department of Agriculture and general counsel for the NC Chamber of Commerce.

We already knew that both Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) and Rep. Ben Moss (R-Richmond) are running for Labor commissioner. Democrat Jessica Holmes, who lost to Josh Dobson by about 90,000 votes in 2020, may run again. Dobson has said he isn’t seeking re-election.

Democratic State Auditor Beth Wood has confirmed pursuit of a second term, and Republican Chad Brown has confirmed he will run for secretary of state, although incumbent Democrat Elaine Marshall only is listed as “speculated.”

District 9 state Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Bladen) is listed as a possible candidate to replace longtime incumbent Republican Steve Troxler as a candidate for agriculture commissioner. Troxler is listed as a possibility for governor.

8 out of 10 North Carolinian voters want Medicaid expansion, poll finds


NC Attorney General Josh Stein (AP)

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Southern Pines)

NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls

State Rep. Amber Baker (D-Winston-Salem)

State Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Kernersville)

N.C. Republican Party Chair Michael Whatley’s comments on Stein’s announcement invoked the word “woke”: “North Carolina families need a governor who will fight for them – not the woke left. We need a governor who will focus on building a thriving economy, making sure our kids have the opportunity for a world-class education, and putting families first. Josh Stein is not that man. He’s built his entire career advancing the priorities of the progressive left and enabling Democrats’ radical agenda – clearly the wrong choice for the Old North State in 2024.” 

9th District U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Southern Pines) introduced HR 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow a person permitted to carry a concealed weapon in one state to do so in all the others, no matter variances in state law. He says the bill has 118 bipartisan sponsors. Hudson also says he opposes a regulation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about “stabilizing braces,” which are extensions to weapons (typically pistols) to allow them to be stabilized with one hand. He called the ATF’s rule “unconstitutional overreach.”

NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls was in Greensboro this week to address the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad about the state’s Task Force for Racial Equity Criminal Justice. She applauded the effort of the group created by Gov. Roy Cooper. “Just remember that this task force, and all the work that we’ve done, is the result of people in communities coming together and saying that what was going on was unacceptable and that we needed to make changes,” she told the group.

You have to wonder when state Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Kernersville) will have time for – you know – life, given that Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) placed her on nine committees when he announced assignments last week. She is a co-chair of three high-profile – the Health Care, the Appropriations for Health & Human Services and the Pensions And Retirement And Aging – but there are six other meetings, too. “I am so grateful for the support and humbled by the responsibilities I have been given,” she said. Nobody in the House appears to be quite that busy.

State Rep. Amber Baker (D-Winston-Salem) has been elected as treasurer of the Legislative Black Caucus for the 2023-24 session, the only member of the Triad delegation in the group’s leadership. State Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. (D-Mecklenburg) was elected chair, state Sen. Kandie Smith (D-Edgecombe) was elected first vice chair, and Sen. Joyce Waddell (D-Mecklenburg) is second vice chair. Also voted into office were Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham) as secretary, Rep. Vernetta Alston (D-Durham) as parliamentarian and Sen. Mujtaba Mohammed (D-Mecklenburg) as sergeant-at-arms.

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