As the election season winds up for November, the N.C. Democratic Party is interpreting Tillis’ legislative record to their advantage.
The NCDP brought together former Congressman Brad Miller (D-N.C.); Christine “Chris” Chambers-Merriman, a retired teacher; and Rick Gardner, an out-of-work North Carolinian, for a conference call Wednesday.
The purpose of the call, Gardner said, was to give a voice to those “adversely impacted” by legislature passed under Gov. Pat McCrory — but given it occurred a day after primary elections, it was also a first step to campaigning for the November election.
The conference call participants depicted N.C. House Speaker and Republican Senate nominee Thom Tillis as the face of unpopular policies passed by the N.C. General Assembly against the record of incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).
Almost all of the grievances noted in the conference call paralleled Hagan’s memo released on primary election day last Tuesday, entitled “Thom Tillis’ Top Vulnerabilities.”
Criticisms focused on policy areas including health care and education, but as November approaches, the list is sure to grow.
“Divide and Conquer”
One of the main topics of conversation that could prove pivotal come November is a video unearthed from 2011 that many are calling the divide and conquer video. In it, Tillis discusses his welfare coverage strategy.
“We have to show respect for that woman that has cerebral palsy that had no choice in her condition that needs help and that we should help,” Tillis said in the video. “We need to get those folks to look down at these people who chose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say at some point, ‘you are on your own.’”
Miller was asked his opinion of the video on the call.
“It did sort of seem like the 47 percent comment,” he said, referring to the viral video often associated with Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 presidential election. “It shows a remarkable contempt for people in difficult circumstances.”
While a comparison to Romney’s 47 percent comparison might be hyperbolic, the video has garnered enough attention to warrant it being brought up in Tillis’ interview with MSNBC on Wednesday.
“We have people that are abusing the system at the expense of us being able to do more for those who desperately need that safety net,” Tillis said in the interview. “When we explain what we’re talking about, I believe the citizens of North Carolina agree with it. And Kay Hagan trying to exploit it, it’s a part of their strategy memo for November.”
While the unpopular Affordable Care Act can be seen as a vulnerability in the Hagan campaign, it hasn’t stopped the NCDP from bringing up the legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.
“It has cost every North Carolinian increased health care because of the dogmatic opposition of the legislature to (taking) federal money,” Miller said on the call.
According to a recent study by George Washington University, 24 states have decided not to expand Medicaid. Of the uninsured patients in all 50 states, 1 in 5 who would have been eligible under a nationwide expansion will remain uninsured because of the decision of those 24 states, the study said.
The Senate Majority PAC has already begun the attack ads on Tillis regarding health care, long before the primary election last Tuesday.
“(Tillis) let insurance companies deny coverage if I get sick,” said one of the actors in the ad, generalizing the issue.
In January, political analysts predicted education would be a huge emphasis by the NCDP, including such measures as the phasing out of teachers’ tenure, the decrease in teachers’ bonuses, and the half-a-billion dollar cut to education.
Just as the conference call I analyzed back in September 2013, the NCDP continues to focus on those education measures.
“Even before the divide and conquer video, I saw Thom Tillis as a divider,” said Chambers-Merriman on the call. “And I’ve seen Senator Hagan as a fighter for the middle class.”
The participants in the call didn’t bring up the teacher pay raise announced by McCrory and supported by Tillis back in February, which was seen by many as a step forward, but not enough to make up for the previous education legislation.
Gardner, a North Carolinian who has been out of work since May 2013, brought his grievances to the table as well.
In January 2013, unemployment benefits were reduced from a maximum of 63 weeks to a maximum of 20 weeks.
Gardner said he has been cut off from federal emergency benefits as a result.
“I work hard, I play by the rules and I think that Thom Tillis’ action in the legislature has hurt me and a lot of others for his own political gain,” Gardner said.
From January 2013 to March 2014, unemployment in North Carolina dropped from 8.8 percent to 6.3 percent — a decrease of 28.4 percent. During the same time period, unemployment in the United States dropped from 7.9 percent to 6.7 percent, a decrease of 15 percent.
In an interview with MSNBC Wednesday, Tillis avoided taking a stance on minimum wage, even though he has said since 2010 he opposed a minimum wage hike.
Recent trends in the GOP seem to be leaning towards increasing minimum wage, as 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum all have said they would support an increase of minimum wage.
The GOP is not exempt from throwing dirt at the other party. Much of the rhetoric from Tillis’ acceptance speech from Tuesday night was aimed at Hagan.
“Kay Hagan made this mess,” he said during the speech. “I want you all to take a broom and sweep (her) out of office.”
The campaign to come will see a slew of mud-slinging and plenty of political ads funded by the millions of dollars raised by both Hagan and Tillis.
View from the Hill is a political blog by Daily Tar Heel staff writers. Any opinion expressed in it does not represent the Daily Tar Heel. Email the blog coordinator at email@example.com.
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