Tillis will make US Senate bid official next week
Posted May 30, 2013
Updated May 31, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — House Speaker Thom Tillis will formally step into the 2014 Republican primary for U.S. Senate next week, confirming months of speculation that he was interested in contending for the chance to unseat incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan.
Word that Tillis was about to go public with his campaign plans began circulating among his colleagues at the state legislature late Thursday. A source knowledgeable about his campaign confirmed Tillis would file the paperwork needed to announce and organize a bid early next week. Other Republican insiders confirmed that an announcement was imminent.
Tillis did not return a phone call seeking comment, but he took to his Twitter account early Friday to post a message.
"Friends, I have decided to run for the US Senate against Kay Hagan in 2014. I hope to earn your support," Tillis tweeted at 4:17 a.m.
The Mecklenburg County Republican is in his fourth term at the legislature and is serving his second as speaker of the House. His announcement would position him as the first well-known and politically accomplished contender to enter the race.
Tillis has shown himself to be a prodigious fundraiser, although recent polling shows most North Carolinians don't have either a favorable or unfavorable impression of him.
Thus far, only Greg Brannon, an obstetrician/gynecologist from Cary best known for his involvement in the tea party movement, is the only announced contender. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry recently told the Associated Press she was not interested in a bid. Other potential challengers include Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of Dunn and former ambassador Jim Cain.
The most intriguing potential primary battle might arise if Sen. Phil Berger, the president pro tem of the chamber, decides to enter the race, setting up an intramural battle between the legislature's two top leaders.
Tillis' announcement will come as no surprise. He has long sent signals that he would run and Tillis allies formed a super PAC last week to support his presumed bid.
Hagan is finishing her first six-year term in the U.S. Senate. In 2008, she rode a Democratic wave and President Barack Obama's coattails to unseat Republican stalwart Elizabeth Dole, the high point for the Democratic party's fortunes in recent years. Since then, Republicans have dominated the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, taking control of the governor's mansion, House and Senate.
In 2014, the U.S. Senate campaign will be at the top of the ticket.