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In primary, Tillis, Hagan, Haugh

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/27/19/42/TEdDp.Em.138.jpeg|500
    MLewis -
    N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/13/21/32/8qxZK.Em.138.jpeg|479
    Renee Bouchard - RENEE BOUCHARD
    U.S. Senator Kay Hagan
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/30/06/47/tPYzX.Em.138.jpg|210
    - Facebook page, Sean Haugh, Libertarian for US Senate
    Sean Haugh, Libertarian candidate for US Senate

More Information

  • Early voting

    Polls are open 11-7 (8-7 at the Hal Marshall Center) today through Friday, and 10-1 on Saturday, at 13 Mecklenburg sites. For details, go to www.meckboe.org or check with your local elections board.



The Republican Party of yesteryear, the one of Gov. Jim Martin and Gov. Jim Holshouser, is just about gone in North Carolina. Nothing makes that more evident than watching the eight Republicans in the state’s U.S. Senate race scurry further right, each bragging that he or she is more conservative than the next.

That’s simply delicious for the tea partiers and party activists who see virtually no role for government and want to abolish much of it. For the remaining rank-and-file Republican voters, however, it makes next week’s primary election a conundrum.

We see little difference among the candidates on the issues. But N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis has a deeper knowledge about public policy issues facing the nation and North Carolina. He has the experience to best hit the ground running in Washington and, notably, gives Republicans the best chance of defeating Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in November.

Tillis is trumpeting his conservative credentials, and after watching his destructive policies in the House, we don’t doubt him. Tillis orchestrated a damaging agenda in the legislature. Among the elements of his tarnished legacy: The denial of Medicaid, at no cost to North Carolina, to 500,000 poor residents; the ending of unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed; teacher pay that ranks 46th in the nation; and his helping pass what will probably go down as the last state constitutional amendment to deny equal rights to gay citizens.

His opponents, though, likely would have done the same had they been in the role. And they might not have shown some of Tillis’ more moderate inclinations, such as fighting for compensation for victims of the state’s forced sterilization program, or ensuring that really wacky bills, such as one that would have created a state religion, never get a hearing.

Tillis likes to have it both ways, and when he’s not tacking to the right to impress primary voters, he drops hints that he’s a results-oriented moderate. Some centrist voters might invest hope in that, but we think Tillis’ far-right record speaks for itself.

Still, his primary opponents are strident or inexperienced. They would pursue agendas in service to a constituency – the national Tea Party, say, or the religious right – ahead of North Carolinians specifically. However wrong he is on the issues, Tillis would at least fight for what he perceives to be North Carolinians’ interests in Washington, and would have the political wherewithal to do so more effectively than his Republican rivals. He’d be closer to a Sen. Richard Burr than a Sen. Ted Cruz, we expect, and that’d be better for North Carolina.

Most Republicans are concerned primarily with defeating Hagan. In Tillis, they have a candidate with a chance to do that, and one who would quickly fit in in today’s Congress.

DEMOCRATS: HAGAN

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan faces her own primary challenge. She deserves to win it easily, and she surely will.

Her opponents, the little-known Ernest Reeves and Will Stewart, have never run for office, lack the experience to win a U.S. Senate race and have not campaigned to any great extent. Reeves, 49, of Greenville, is a retired Army veteran. Stewart, 32, of Hampstead, was once homeless; he now lives in a rented trailer and says he would fight for the poor.

Hagan, an experienced legislator who defeated Elizabeth Dole in 2008, deserves the nomination to a second term.

LIBERTARIANS: HAUGH

N.C. libertarians, who make up four-tenths of 1 percent of the electorate, have their first primary in a U.S. Senate race. Sean Haugh of Durham faces Tim D’Annunzio of Raeford.

Haugh wants to end all U.S. involvement in wars. D’Annunzio is a former Republican who has lost two bids for Congress and is remembered by many for his “machine gun social” in 2010. Tom Fetzer, then the N.C. Republican Party chairman, declared that D’Annunzio was “unfit for public office at any level.” We agree. Haugh is the better choice.

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