Politics & Government

Contraception a new issue for Tillis and other GOP candidates

More than a few eyebrows rose during last week’s U.S. Senate debate when Thom Tillis started talking about contraception. Turns out he’s not the only Republican Senate candidate talking about it.

The subject came up when moderator Norah O’Donnell asked Tillis and Democrat Kay Hagan what they thought of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which said a company can deny employees contraceptive coverage for religious reasons .

“I believe contraception should be available probably more broadly than it is today,” Tillis replied. “I actually agree with the American Medical Association, that we should make contraception more widely available. I think over-the-counter oral contraception should be available without prescription.”

GOP Senate candidates in Colorado, Virginia and Minnesota have also raised the idea of over-the-counter sales.

Analyst Stu Rothenberg traces the idea to a 2012 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called “The End of Birth-Control Politics.”

“While the evolution of the issue could alienate some social conservative voters, it would appear to have a much greater upside for the GOP hopefuls,” Rothenberg wrote last week. “Their position on contraception could soften their image with moderate voters, diluting some of the impact of Democrats’ ‘war on women’ talking points among suburban swing voters.”

Still, Tillis’ comment caught even supporters off guard.

“We were a little surprised by the over-the-counter idea on contraception,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition. “… Making contraception available over the counter is a bad idea. But what we know about Tillis is he has a record of being pro-life. He’ll be a supporter of pro-life values in the Senate.”

Meanwhile Melissa Reed, a vice president of Planned Parenthood Health Systems Action Fund, said Tillis’ proposal “masquerades as a solution, but it is not one.”

“It’s not surprising that Thom Tillis is trying to muddy the waters,” she said. “Fifty-seven percent of women voters say they would be more likely to support a candidate who opposes allowing employers like Hobby Lobby to refuse to cover birth control.…

“American women saved $483 million over the past year alone thanks to the birth control benefit, which is already available to more than 48 million women nationwide.” Jim Morrill

Voting isn’t waiting until November

Election Day may be two months away but voting already has begun.

Election boards around North Carolina started sending out absentee ballots Friday. More than 900 had gone out in Mecklenburg by noon, according to elections director Michael Dickerson.

A few things to remember as a result of recent legislation:

• Oct. 10 is the deadline to register. This year, for the first time, voters can no longer register on Election Day.

• Early, in-person voting starts Oct. 23. The early voting period will be a week shorter than in previous years.

• Voters can no longer vote a straight-party ticket.

• Candidates will appear on the ballot with those of the governor’s party, that is Republicans, on top. It had always been Democrats.

Jim Morrill

Politicians behaving badly

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s conviction on corruption charges last week prompted a lot of allusions to the problems of a former North Carolina senator. Among them:


Chris Cilizza

in the Washington Post: “While it’s always dangerous to call anything in politics ‘the largest and most rapid collapse in modern memory’, the fall from political grace for McDonnell is absolutely stunning – and ensures his spot in the ignominious annals of disgraced politicians with national ambitions right alongside

John Edwards


• Huffington Post: “Speaking of your lawyers, get new ones, and the fact you threw your wife under the bus makes you the biggest John Edwards in American politics.”

• Wall Street Journal: “The verdict is a vindication for the Justice Department’s public integrity unit, which has been seeking to regain its momentum after a North Carolina jury failed to convict former U.S. Sen.

John Edwards

in a 2012 campaign-finance case.”

• Latin American Herald Tribune: “His trial generated an enormous amount of media attention in the United States, similar to what occurred during the 2012 trial of former Democratic vice presidential candidate

John Edwards

, who eventually was acquitted on several counts related to illegal use of campaign funds.”

Jim Morrill

The ‘other’ president to stump for Hagan

Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to attend a fundraiser in North Carolina this month for Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election bid.

Hagan’s campaign says the ex-president will attend a luncheon event Sept. 30 in Chapel Hill. No details were released.

Spokeswoman Sadie Weiner says Hagan is honored that Clinton has offered to help with her campaign. The state Republican Party had a different take.

“She won’t dare go near the current president, Barack Obama,” the party said in a release. Associated Press