Washington Republicans help fill Tillis’ war chest

jmorrill@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 10, 2014 

LEGISLATURE7.NE.012913.TI

House Speaker Thom Tillis

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com

Cornelius Republican Thom Tillis has added 10 more U.S. senators and more than a dozen state lawmakers to the list of donors to his Senate campaign, according to a new campaign report.

Tillis has raised $1.8 million, more than three times any GOP opponent. However, he trails Sen. Kay Hagan, who raised $9.9 million last year.

Tillis’ nearest Republican competitor financially is Greg Brannon, a Cary physician who raised $524,500.

Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, who Monday picked up the endorsement of a candidate who just left the race, raised $406,000, according to his campaign. He has nearly $206,000 on hand, more than Brannon.

Tillis, speaker of the N.C. House, continued to benefit from support of GOP congressional leaders. Earlier donations came from the political action committees of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

In the last quarter of 2013, Tillis got money from the PACs of 10 GOP senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and John Cornyn of Texas.

It was once unusual for party leaders to take sides in a primary, particularly one without an incumbent. But this year, GOP leaders have supported candidates they believe have a better chance of winning in November, often at the cost of alienating tea party supporters.

Tillis’ donations underscore his support from the party establishment. Backers also include GOP strategist Karl Rove, who supports mainstream GOP candidates.

Tillis got donations from lobbyists with an interest in legislation before the House as well.

One Republican opponent has used all that to criticize Tillis.

“North Carolina is a battleground state in the all-out war between grassroots conservatives and the Washington, D.C. establishment,” Brannon wrote supporters recently. “In one corner sits my establishment-backed opponent and his gaggle of high-powered lobbyists and D.C. insiders who flat-out HATE the Tea Party movement.”

Brannon spokesman Reilly O’Neal called Tillis’ latest report “a who’s who of D.C. insiders who sell out conservatives on a regular basis.”

Tillis’ campaign could not be reached. He has said he’s reaching out to all Republicans.

Full reports for Harris and Brannon were unavailable Monday. The only other report that was available showed Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant raising a little more than $9,200.

Harris wins support

Harris was endorsed Monday by Bill Flynn, a Forsyth County broadcaster who left the race in January after losing his campaign manager. He blamed his decision on fundraising trouble.

“Although I’ve stepped away from my own bid … I have not abandoned my commitment to the vital principles of liberty, limited government, faith and family,” Flynn said in a statement. “Fortunately, we have one candidate who shares this view.”

Harris said he was “truly grateful for his vote of confidence in this race.”

“This is a big endorsement and will intensify our growing grass-roots momentum,” he said.

Morrill: 704-358-5059

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