Raleigh, N.C. — Supporters of House Speaker Thom Tillis said Friday that they have filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to create a super PAC to build support for a possible U.S. Senate campaign by Tillis next year.
As an independent expenditure committee, Grow NC Strong can raise and spend unlimited funds in support of a Tillis campaign.
Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger are widely seen as potential challengers to Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014, but neither has formally announced a campaign.
“Our state’s failing economy is turning around under the leadership of Thom Tillis, and there’s a reason for that: Thom understands North Carolina businesses,” Champ Mitchell, chairman of Grow NC Strong, said in a statement. “We need a reliable advocate who will eliminate the burdens holding back further job growth. His track record of success shows we can rely on him to get the job done.”
Mitchell, executive director Michael Luethy, treasurer Cindy Marrelli-Watko and assistant treasurer Doyle Parrish are the only members of the super PAC who have been identified. No filings by the group are on the FEC website, and its own website provides only links to contribute or get on a mailing list.
Mitchell is a former partner with the Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice law firm who has served as an executive at RJR Nabisco and most recently as chairman and chief executive of domain registry firm Network Solutions. Luethy is a former staffer for the North Carolina Republican Party and the Republican State Leadership Committee who now heads Cary-based Oak Grove Campaigns, which provides services to candidates in more than two dozen states.
Marrelli-Watko has worked in sales and management positions at IBM and Accenture and is a board member of the North Carolina Values Coalition. Parrish is chief executive of hotel owner Summit Hospitality Group.
“Thom Tillis is an honest and proven leader who stands strong for conservative principles,” Marrelli-Watko said in a statement. “He has the character it takes to stop the continual growth of government and its assault on our values. He’s exactly what we need in Washington right now.”
“As Speaker, Thom Tillis instituted a results-driven approach to state government that is sorely missing today from our bickering federal government,” Parrish said in a statement. “He proves every day in Raleigh that his private-sector experience equipped him perfectly for the difficult job of protecting priorities while balancing a budget.”
Grow NC Strong is the second outside group focused on Tillis. A 501(c)4 called North Carolina House Legislative Partners ran a television ad in March featuring him touting the agenda of House leaders.
Democrats quickly criticized the creation of the super PAC.
"Speaker Thom Tillis has consistently ignored the economy and job creation for middle-class North Carolina families while pursuing favor with special interest groups,” Ben Ray, a spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said in a statement. "Thom Tillis has a long record of close ties to special interests and inappropriate relationships with lobbyists, and this is just the latest chapter.”