Like many North Carolina editorial boards, the folks at the Raleigh News & Observer wrote last week about what they'd like to see from the General Assembly's "short session" that began Wednesday. Tucked near the bottom of the editorial was this:
Naturally, this caught the eye of Sen. Kay Hagan's campaign, which emailed media this morning a link to the N&O editorial, declaring "Second major NC paper asks Tillis to resign."
Who was the first? Well, that would be us. In an editorial last July, we noted that Thom Tillis was missing important legislative debate while traveling to raise money for his U.S. Senate campaign against Hagan. His absence was also troubling on another level, we wrote:
Besides missing important House business, Tillis’ moonlighting has the look of the pay-to-play politics that Republicans decried among Democrats for so long. A superPAC for Tillis raised $70,000 from George A. Sywassink, R. Doyle Parrish and W.G. Champion Mitchell, newly released records show. Tillis’ House named all three to the UNC Board of Governors recently, including Sywassink after declaring there had been a vote-tallying error the first time around.State law bars legislators from raising money from lobbyists during the legislative session, but the ban doesn’t apply to federal candidates like Tillis. So he can attend a fundraiser hosted by Royce Everette, a major consumer finance lender, days after the legislature approved a bill raising interest rates and fees for Everette’s industry.
All of which led us to go one step further than the N&O, which suggested that he resign the House Speaker's post. Tillis, we said, "should give up his Speaker's gavel, resign from his House seat and give his full energy to his Senate bid, unencumbered by such distractions as running the state."
(We should note, as we did in that 2013 editorial, that Hagan raised money for her 2008 Senate campaign even as she co-chaired the state Senate Appropriations Committee.)
We don't expect Tillis to resign for the good of his constituents and the General Assembly. But should he do so for his campaign against Hagan? It's no secret that Tillis alienated the N.C. moderates he needs with the far right agenda he helped pushed as House Speaker, especially in the past two years. If Republicans in Raleigh have more of the same in mind for the short session, Tillis will have a harder time finding his way back to the center in his campaign.
To that end, however, Tillis might be better off holding on to the Speaker's gavel and maintaining some control over the legislative agenda. That way he can keep his fellow Republicans somewhat in check - and perhaps even play the moderate on an issue or two.
We'll have to wait to find out. Tillis isn't in Raleigh for at least some of the first day of the first full week of the session. According to the N&O, he's in Washington raising money at the offices of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.
Peter St. Onge