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Tillis bid for Senate in motion

Supporters of GOP House speaker form committee as he criticizes Sen. Hagan

Supporters of North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis have formed an independent committee to support his potential U.S. Senate bid next year.

Organizers of the “Grow NC Strong” organization said Friday they filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission this week to create the political action committee. The super PAC, which could be used to fund television ads, can raise and spend unlimited funds to support Tillis should he get in the race to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. A super PAC must be separate from a campaign committee and can’t work in tandem with a candidate.

Tillis, a Mecklenburg County business consultant, told The Associated Press on Thursday he planned to spend the holiday weekend talking with family about the race. He’s already talked with friends and supporters across the state about getting in and has visited Republicans in Washington.

“This is about beating Kay Hagan … and making sure we have two strong voices in Washington trying to solve problems,” Tillis said, referring to GOP Sen. Richard Burr.

Only one Republican – physician and tea party favorite Greg Brannon of Cary – has publicly announced a candidacy. A GOP primary would be in May 2014.

“Grow NC Strong” is led by retired attorney and CEO Champ Mitchell of New Bern. Mitchell and another organization leader – Doyle Parrish of Raleigh – were elected by the state House to the UNC Board of Governors in March.

Tillis “proves every day in Raleigh that his private sector experience equipped him perfectly for the difficult job of protecting priorities while balancing a budget,” Parrish said in a release.

Also connected to the super PAC is political consultant Michael Luethy, a former policy adviser to Tillis during his first term as speaker.

The state Democratic Party used the super PAC’s emergence to criticize Tillis. The committee is another sign special interests are seeking to promote his agenda, party spokesman Ben Ray said. Another independent organization formed this year and running ads for Tillis doesn’t have to release its donors.

“He’s a special interest guy and he’s going to run a special interest campaign,” Ray said.

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