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 states U.S. Senate race scurry further right, each bragging that he or she is more conservative than the next.
Thats 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 weeks 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 dont 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 states 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 hes not tacking to the right to impress primary voters, he drops hints that hes 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. Hed be closer to a Sen. Richard Burr than a Sen. Ted Cruz, we expect, and thatd 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 todays Congress.
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.
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 DAnnunzio of Raeford.
Haugh wants to end all U.S. involvement in wars. DAnnunzio 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 DAnnunzio was unfit for public office at any level. We agree. Haugh is the better choice.
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