While the unemployed, uninsured and working poor are paying the heaviest price for the Republican take over of North Carolina state government, Thom Tillis may pay a steep price also. While he has, at times, tried to distance himself from the most draconian or stupid legislation, he will own pretty much anything that passes the house. Kay Hagan, the DSCC and their progressive allies will make sure of that.
In 2006, I worked for a first-time candidate for Congress against a sitting Speaker of the Wisconsin House of Representatives in a race for an open seat Republican-held district. The Speaker was the heavy favorite. Unfortunately for him, he also bore responsibility for everything that happened in the House. We tagged him with scandals and bad policies that happened on his watch and they stuck, costing him the election and ending his political career, at least so far.
North Carolina in 2014 is certainly a bit different. 2006 was a Democratic wave year and a rejection of Bush’s second term. Hagan is an incumbent and this election may be a referendum on Obamacare and Obama.
However, Tillis cannot run as Speaker of the House and separate himself from the damaging legislation spewing from the General Assembly. At times he has tried to sound the voice of reason but has never raised it above the din of crazy, mean or vindictive rhetoric emanating from his Republican colleagues. He’s stuck in a place where he either has to say, “I don’t really agree with that legislation,” which, as House Speaker, indicates a lack of leadership, lack of conviction or both. Or he’s going to have to defend supporting legislation that is widely unpopular, which makes him out of touch.
The legislation coming out of the General Assembly makes attacks too easy. For instance, as Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis raised taxes on working families while giving huge tax breaks to the North Carolina’s wealthiest citizens. How does he defend eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit while also ending the Estate Tax or cutting the income tax rate for the wealthiest?
Or how about this one? “As Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis cut unemployment benefits for 170,000 North Carolinians while the state had the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country.” Or how about, “As Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis denied health care to 500,000 North Carolinians, even though it would not have cost the state a dime.” Or, “Following the Newtown Massacre, as Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis passed legislation that allows guns in bars, at sporting events, in public parks and on college campuses.”
At some point, the 2014 Senate race in North Carolina will come down to Tillis trying to wrap Kay Hagan around Obama and Hagan trying to wrap Tillis around the legislation coming out of the state house. Tillis and his colleagues have served up ample ammunition.