Senate Majority PAC uses staffer scandal against Tillis
Two senior aids for House Speaker Thom Tillis resigned after affairs with lobbyists came to light in 2012. A Democratic super PAC is spending $1 million to air a commercial featuring the episode.Posted — Updated
"Thom Tillis shared an apartment with his chief of staff when North Carolina news reported that the chief of staff was having an extramarital affair with a lobbyist and was caught on camera and resigned," the ad begins. "Then, one week later, another Tillis staffer resigns for another sexual relationship with a lobbyist. Thom Tillis' reaction? He claimed he was surprised by his roommate's affair but then rewarded both aides with taxpayer-paid bonuses. Thom Tillis: Spending our money to clean up his mess."
Polls show Tillis, the state House speaker, is the leader among eight Republicans vying for the chance to take on U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, in this year's general election. Super PACs from both sides of the political spectrum have been spending heavily on the race, although most of their television advertising anticipates a Hagan-Tillis showdown rather than focusing on the primary.
According to FCC filings, the commercial will run on broadcast television in every major television market in the state.
So why would Democrats run an ad against Tillis before he is officially Hagan's opposition?
The worst case scenario is it gives the Democratic side of the ledger that much of a head start on the fall campaign. The conservative Americans for Prosperity has already spent about $8 million on ads attacking Hagan. This evens that score a bit.
In a best-case scenario, the early advertising damages Tillis enough that he is forced into a runoff. Primary winners need at least 40 percent of the vote, or the second-place challenger can call for a runoff. That would drain money from Tillis' campaign war chest and maybe scare off some donors who would be concerned he couldn't close out a trio of relatively unknown political novices. Also, a second primary campaign would overlap with this year's North Carolina General Assembly session, forcing Tillis to manage the campaign as he manages the sometimes messy budget process or excuses himself from one of the state's highest-profile jobs.
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