Politics & Government

Tillis, facing primary challenge, to get boost from vice president

Vice President Mike Pence will attend a fundraising dinner with Sen. Thom Tillis in Greensboro on May 22, an important sign of support from the administration for Tillis, who faces a primary challenge in 2020.

The high-dollar event comes after Raleigh businessman Garland Tucker entered the race against Tillis for the Republican nomination. Tillis, a former NC House Speaker and first-term senator, is up for re-election in 2020. The event is paid for by Trump/Pence Victory, a joint fundraising committee for President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Tillis has faced criticism from some North Carolina Republicans for not sufficiently backing Trump on immigration issues, notably Trump’s national emergency declaration. Tillis, who wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post explaining his rationale for voting against the emergency declaration, voted with the president after the backlash.

Tucker, in his first television ad, hit Tillis for his “flip flop” on the issue.

Both campaigns have made the other’s support (or lack thereof) for Trump an issue early in the race.

In recent days, Tillis has backed Trump on two notable issues — criticizing a Senate committee-issued subpoena to Donald Trump Jr. and tweeting support for the president’s tough stance on China trade negotiations.

Sen. Richard Burr, a fellow North Carolina Republican, leads the committee that issued the subpoena. The New York Times reported that Trump Jr.’s allies pressured Tillis into coming out against the subpoena.

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and the party’s national deputy finance chair Louis DeJoy — the former CEO of New Breed Logistics and a Republican mega donor — will also attend the event. DeJoy hosted a fundraiser for President Donald Trump at his home in 2017.

The event has giving levels from $2,800 to $35,000.

McDaniel attended the Mecklenburg County Republican Party’s Lincoln Reagan Douglass Dinner on May 9. Tillis was also a guest.

Tillis raised $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2019 and has $2.9 million cash on hand, according to the FEC. Tucker is not yet required to file with the FEC.

Several Democrats are running for the seat, including Mecklenburg County commissioner Trevor Fuller, state Sen. Erica Smith and Raleigh tax attorney Eva Lee.

North Carolina is expected to be one of the top-tier races in the country as Republicans try to hold their slim majority in the Senate.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Trevor Fuller as a former Mecklenburg county commissioner. Fuller is a current commissioner.
Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.