Politics & Government

Tillis votes, campaigns in Charlotte

U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis can count on the support of Republicans such as John Ayers and his wife, Barbara – just not in the primary.

The couple cast their votes for Republican Greg Brannon at South Regional library Thursday, moments before Tillis walked in to cast his.

“We feel that Tillis is the only one that can beat that gal,” said John Ayers, 83, referring to Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

“But today,” added his wife, “We want to show support for Greg Brannon.”

Tillis, the speaker of the N.C. House, needs votes in the primary if he’s going to make it to face Hagan in November. He got at least two on Thursday, from himself and his wife, Susan.

Polls have shown Tillis is close to or above the 40 percent he needs to win the primary without a runoff. Speaking to reporters after voting, he kept his focus not on Brannon or other GOP rivals but on Hagan.

“Kay Hagan and (Senate Democratic leader) Harry Reid have spent almost $6 million trying to … meddle in our primary, and I don’t think it’s working,” he said. “They’re trying to do everything they can to keep me from winning the primary because they know that in November we’re going to beat them.”

A new Elon University Poll Thursday showed ads for and against Tillis are working in one way: His name recognition among North Carolinians stands at 63 percent, compared to 38 percent in February.

The same poll showed that only 21 percent had a favorable impression of him.

But Tillis, who was endorsed Thursday by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, hopes to raise those numbers and win over voters like the Ayerses.

“This campaign has always been about beating Kay Hagan,” he said. “And the sooner we can move on with the nomination so that we can have Republicans, unaffiliateds and conservative Democrats come together and defeat Kay Hagan, the sooner the better.”