In the past few months, scrutinizing eyes have fallen upon Republican Senator Thom Tillis here in the Tar Heel state.
Endless speculation surrounding a potential primary challenge finally bore fruit earlier this week: Tucker Garland, a conservative businessman and stalwart of the conservative intelligentsia in the state is launching a bid to end Tillis’ tenure in the upper chamber of Congress.
Already, the battle has taken a negative turn. Tucker launched his campaign on Sean Hannity’s radio program where he laid into what he likely sees as a milquetoast record of conservatism during Tillis’ time in D.C.
It is not without forethought that Tucker leveraged Sean Hannity to start his primary campaign; Hannity is one of President Trump’s fiercest proponents. Indeed, Hannity has blurred the line between journalist (though he and others at Fox News would point out that their all-star slate of primetime shows are opinion-givers and not straight news reporters), going as far as to speak on stage at a Trump rally prior to a one-on-one interview with the president.
Tucker, if he is to succeed in his upset bid, will have to tie himself closely to the president. In 2016, he offered an op-ed to the News & Observer wherein he rationalized a vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election. He did not enjoy arriving at his conclusion via negative reasoning, he wrote, but his aversion to Clinton impelled him to vote for Trump.
Tillis and the Republican establishment, primarily the NRSC, have labeled Tucker an anti-Trump activist. That is probably the best, if not only, way to protect Tillis from a primary loss, but Tillis as the messenger of that attack is lackluster at best.
Earlier this year, Tillis made headlines by writing in the Washington Post that he would side against the president and vote to protect the separation of powers. The issue at hand was the emergency declaration Trump issued to shift around funds to pay for his border wall. When it came time to vote, Tillis reversed his position and sided with Trump.
Tucker highlighted Tillis’ proclivity for changing positions in a North State Journal article in February, where he warned the incumbent senator of “the Swamp,” as Trump calls Washington, D.C. In that instance, he focused on the nomination of Thomas Farr, a lieutenant of the infamous longtime Senator Jesse Helms.
My personal knowledge of Tom Farr — and the facts — convince me that Farr is a competent conservative and should be confirmed. If the swamp is ever to be drained, Republicans are going to have to develop the backbone to push back. Too often “Mugwump” Republicans have retreated back into the Establishment. Washington politicians don’t ask themselves, What’s the right thing to do? — then say, Let’s do it. And forget the politics. Instead, with their fingers to the political winds they broker backroom deals.
Tucker’s full piece is linked below:
While a primary challenge to Tillis in the GOP will require almost sycophantic adherence to Trump, neither candidate can really claim a victory on the merits. Though Tucker has voiced opposition to Trump before, he does not have a political record to defend.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.