Tillis ‘chomping at bit’ to debate

jmorrill@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 18, 2014 

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis Tuesday dismissed critics who say he’s ducking debates and said he’s “chomping at the bit” to tout his legislative record.

The N.C. House speaker said he’s been tied up raising money for a campaign that has national implications.

“This is a national race, people need to understand,” he told the Observer. “This is a statewide race in terms of the electorate. It’s a national race in terms of the interest in winning a majority in the U.S. Senate. The candidate who fails to recognize that … is a candidate who cannot win in November.”

Tillis is among a half dozen Republicans running for the right to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. He spoke to reporters before making comments to about 60 supporters squeezed into his headquarters in Cornelius, his hometown.

It was a rare public campaign appearance for Tillis, who has skipped at least four candidate forums with his GOP rivals.

He’s been focused on fund-raising.

Reports filed last month showed that he’s raised $1.8 million, three times as much as any other Republican candidate but far behind Hagan’s nearly $10 million.

The race already has seen some of the highest levels of outside spending in the country. Leading the way has been a pro-Republican group, Americans for Prosperity, which has spent more than $6.8 million on ads against Hagan. Two Democratic groups, meanwhile, have attacked Tillis.

Some Republicans, especially those with the tea party, have criticized the speaker’s low visibility. Tillis bristled at the suggestion he’s ducking debates.

“If somebody thinks that I’m hesitant to talk about a three-year track record of the biggest tax decreases, the largest regulatory reform, medical malpractice reform, pro-life, pro-family, pro-second amendment bills, if somebody thinks I’m not chomping at the bit to go out and tell people what this legislature has done, they haven’t paid attention,” he told the Observer.

He told supporters that he can’t wait to talk about the record of the first General Assembly in over a century controlled by Republicans under a Republican governor.

“The difference between me and my opponents is they get up and talk about what they may do,” he said. “I get up and talk about what I’ve done. Am I ashamed of that? I’m chomping at the bit.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059

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