With the state’s U.S. Senate race continuing to tighten, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan briefly stumped for Republican candidate Thom Tillis at Wingate University on Wednesday, saying Tillis is the type of person needed to help get the country back on track.
“We need your help to make sure the next two years are not like the last two years,” Ryan, the GOP nominee for vice president in 2012, told a crowd of more than 100 people.
Tillis, the N.C. House speaker, faces Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in a contest that could help determine which party controls the Senate. Ryan joined Tillis and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, a Concord Republican, for a 15-minute rally at the Union County university that was preceded by a private fundraiser at a Monroe country club.
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Ryan’s visit is one of a string of high-profile appearances on both sides of the race. Sen. John McCain and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have also made the rounds for Tillis in the past month. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will campaign for Hagan at an early vote event in Charlotte on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Ryan blamed Senate Democrats for ignoring bills sent to them by House Republicans.
“(Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid and his rubber stamp, Kay Hagan, are stopping anything from getting done in the U.S. Senate,” Ryan said, adding that the stalemate allows President Barack Obama to say that he needs to go it alone.
“We need leaders who will solve our country’s problems before they get out of control,” Ryan said. “Thom Tillis has already proven he is that type of leader.”
When it was Tillis’ turn to speak, he asked people to imagine how different the country would look if the person who had introduced him was “Vice President Ryan.”
Tillis also asked the crowd how many had seen his previous night’s TV appearance.
Tillis had appeared on Time Warner Cable News’ “Capital Tonight.” Originally planned as a debate, both major candidates had been invited. Hagan says she only agreed to do three debates and told organizers in July that she wouldn’t take part in a fourth.
“I think it was her best performance yet,” Tillis said.
He went on to criticize Hagan for what he said was a string of broken promises, from dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Affordable Care Act. And he asked the crowd for its help in an election that is less than two weeks away.
After the event ended, Tillis left and Ryan hung around for a few minutes to pose for pictures with students and others.
He also took a couple questions from reporters, telling the Observer that Tillis simply needs to “keep doing what he’s doing” to win the race.
Ben Ray, a state Democratic Party spokesman, defended Hagan’s record and said Tillis was attacking her because he is “a candidate who has nothing to run on.”
Ray said Hagan has been focused on Veterans Affairs issues, and had called on then-Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign after a series of scandals at the agency. And Ray said Hagan has opposed Obama on trade deals and other issues, and was called the most moderate member of the Senate by the National Journal.
North Carolina’s Senate race could become the most expensive ever in the nation, with both sides looking at topping a combined $100 million. Early voting starts Thursday ahead of the Nov. 4 election.
Republicans and Democrats alike are looking to pump up turnout in a midterm election year, and appearances by people like Ryan are designed to rally the base to show up and vote. Staff writer Jim Morrill contributed.