Tillis' DC trip provokes grumbles from Democrats, senators

Posted July 17, 2013

— North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis was making the rounds in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to advance his U.S. Senate campaign even as lawmakers in Raleigh were attempting to resolve some contentious issues and shut down this year's legislative session.

Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, also missed part of Tuesday's session, although he was expected back in Raleigh late Wednesday. 

"He had a few meetings that he had to attend in Washington," said Paul Shumaker, a consultant and spokesman for Tillis' Senate campaign. 

Those meeting included an event with U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a series of meetings with other D.C.-based political people and "meet and greets." One of those meet and greets was scheduled for 11 a.m., the same time as the House session began in Raleigh. Held at the offices of the National Association of Wholesale Distributors, the invitation came with a fundraising disclaimer. 

Shumaker said the primary purpose of the trip was not fundraising, per se. Rather, he said, Tillis was building the networks needed to raise money for his run to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014. 

"It's all about laying the groundwork for fundraising," Shumaker said. 

Tillis is behind in that fundraising chase. Hagan reported raising $2 million during the last quarter and has $4.2 million in her bank account. Tillis finished the quarter with close to $250,000 in the bank.

Democrats, not unexpectedly, pounced on Tillis for leaving the state as the legislative session was in progress. 

"Instead of doing his job, Tillis was in Washington, D.C., meeting with groups he hopes will bankroll his Senate campaign," read an email from the North Carolina Democratic Party.

More interestingly, a few senators speaking on background grumbled that Tillis' absence – and focus outside of the legislative building – has been getting in the way of shutting down the session. 

Later in the day, as the Senate session wrapped up, Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, loudly declared on the Senate floor that his members were "sick of the House."

Asked about his comment, Apodaca didn't address Tillis specifically but said, "They don't want to stay here and work."

Senators have said they would like to stay in session until it concludes. But House members have said they will likely go home for the weekend, leaving budget negotiators behind to hammer out a deal with the Senate. Even with a tax bill done, lawmakers still need to agree on a two-year spending plan.  

Asked about Tillis' absence, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said he was scheduled to meet with the speaker later Wednesday and said he was "confident we can keep things moving along."

Berger has canceled his own travel plans. He was scheduled to head to California early next week to chair a meeting of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee. 

Shumaker pointed out that, even as Tillis has worked to spin up his Senate campaign, lawmakers have passed a tax reform proposal this week that hued more closely to House preferences for the bill than Senate preferences. He dismissed any grousing by senators as "political jockeying between the House and the Senate."

It was the House, Shumaker said, where Tillis and other members were growing their beards to protest the length of session.

Asked whether Tillis' campaign and work as speaker were interfering with one another, Shumaker said no. The pressure, he said, is no different from what Hagan faces in balancing her work in the Senate and her own campaign fundraising.

"It's a reality that any current office holder might face," he said.


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  • FlagWavingFascistCrank Jul 18, 2013

    Excellent point, but Thom Tillis isn't employed by the people of NORTH Carolina, he's employed by ALECarolina....and he's their star boy.

    America is a wonderful country, ain't it? A guy like Thom Tillis can move here from Florida, and buy the top position in the NC House with out-of-state corporate SuperPAC money.

    Citizens United is just a front for the fascism that has arrived in America wrapped in a flag, carrying a cross.

  • sisu Jul 18, 2013

    I really don't care if he wants to spend time in D.C. but not when the budget is already overdue. He should be spending that time in thoughtful negotiations here in NC where he is currently employed by the people of NC. Couldn't the handshaking and fundraising be put off a few weeks?

    It seems wrong to have to squeeze the concerns of North Carolinians in between DC political events.

  • goldenosprey Jul 18, 2013

    "Yes, Perdue was clearly running for office in China. It had nothing to do with Lenovo and attracting other jobs to our state. JOBS, remember that topic?" bil15

    Jobs, schmobs. Not nearly as important as rogue uteruses and uppity poor people using EBT and medicaid cards or worthless kids feeling entitled to a decent edyoocashun.

  • rushbot Jul 18, 2013

    jdupree at 1100 posted: "not nearly as bad as perdue to china..." sure sir or ma'am...yes..let's all condemn purdue for lenovo..what an evil person she was.. .. ..i hope your are gettin' lots of ice in the reactionary koolaid you are drinkin' today..it's dangerously hot out there!!!

  • bill15 Jul 18, 2013

    "Not nearly as bad as Perdue to China and Ms Easly to Italy, Russia, etc."

    Yes, Perdue was clearly running for office in China. It had nothing to do with Lenovo and attracting other jobs to our state. JOBS, remember that topic?

  • josephlawrence43 Jul 18, 2013

    Well, lets see what history has to say in response to the liberal/leftist criticism of Tills and his little jaunt: John Edwards, elected US Senator, waited a respectable 30 whole days before all but abandoning his Senate seat in order to go fund raising for his Presidental campaign. Bob Etheridge when State Super in Public Instruction--how much time did he spend away from his desk in fund raising for his run at Governor? Kay Hagan--apparently the highlight of her Senatorial career is passing out doughnuts and coffee in her office. or just before the vote on Obama care, instead of coming "home to listen to her constiutents",took a little jog over to Kuwait and other nations in that area for some "Senatorial fact finding". I would venture to say that Mr. Tillis is, based on Democratic precedent, fully within the bounds of appropriate conduct.

  • jdupree Jul 18, 2013

    Not nearly as bad as Perdue to China and Ms Easly to Italy, Russia, etc.

  • 42_wral_mods_suck_i'm_gone Jul 18, 2013

    "So Speaker Tillis is off to Washington to rub shoulders with his new friends.....hope he enjoyed the visit, because he won't be going back as my candidate to replace Senator Hagan. I guess we know the reason why he's so indebted to the NC Sheriffs' Association...." ajstevens0439

    Wow I figure gun owners would have trumped the sheriff association. What is Tillis thinking?

  • rushbot Jul 18, 2013

    be interesting to see all his questionable decisions revisited during a federal office campaign..course the carpet bagging kansas koch brothers (formerly of manhattan kansas and currently of manhattan new york city) will probably get behind him and send down multi-millions of dollars to his campaign for use in their swift boat style attack ad campaigns..but i think he should have visited new york city to kiss their rings before going to dc..i feel certain he has already kissed kingfish pope's ring..i doubt he bothered to check with lil' patty as he has no real power!!! .. ..so in summary, the formula for anyone seeking power as member of the gop is first be vetted by the kingfish..then the carpet baggers of new york city!!!

  • davisgw Jul 18, 2013

    Tom Tillis is refusing to bring house bill 937 out of committee for a vote. He is playing politics with the bill because the NC Sheriff's Association has a cash cow with the current permit policy. In the majority of states the FBI background check is all that is needed. There is no real reason for the dual check.