Last week, Thom Tillis got an interesting endorsement. A conservative pro-LGBT group named him as a Senator they support. “Senator Tillis has already distinguished himself in the first term as someone who is very bipartisan, very sensitive and thoughtful when it comes to these issues,” an advisor to the group, American Unity Fund, said.
It’s a strange endorsement. For decades, North Carolina successfully held off placing a controversial anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot. However, once Tillis became Speaker, the marriage amendment was passed in his first year as the GOP leader. The amendment was the beginning of a deeply divisive decade of legislation that’s torn North Carolina apart. According to the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-LGBT organization, his record in the Senate hasn’t been much better.
Tillis seemed to accept the support as proof that he’s willing to look for solutions. Tillis has long sought to portray himself as both a moderate and conservative. Back in March, he wrote an op-ed outlining in a thoughtful way why opposed declaring an emergency along our southern border. When conservatives screamed, he quickly back-tracked and voted for the emergency declaration.
Tillis walks a fine line. In a state that’s evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, at least in elections if not registration, he’s trying to keep conservatives who make up the bulk of GOP primary voters happy while not stepping so far to the right as to alienate moderates he needs in a general election. Often, he looks more like someone who’s trying to keep everyone happy and, instead, making everyone angry.
He drew his primary challenger, Garland Tucker, because he doesn’t adhere enough to conservative orthodoxy. It will be interesting to see if Tucker uses the pro-LGBT endorsement against Tillis to woo social conservatives. However, orthodoxy may be a moot point in a primary in the recently transformed Republican Party. Fealty to Trump is the true test and Trump doesn’t seem to care much about LGBT issues.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >