Well, the worst kept secret in North Carolina politics got “let out of the bag” today — state House speaker Thom Tillis is jumping into the 2014 US Senate GOP primary. Oh, and good news folks — he plans to continue serving as House speaker while campaigning for the US Senate.
It was kind of hilarious watching the mainstream media treat this like it was some kind of surprise, earth-shattering revelation.
Most recent polling shows Tillis polling in single digits behind the only other announced GOP contender, Cary physician and Tea Partier Greg Brannon. In fact, Brannon “welcomed” Tillis to the race today with some well-placed jabs:
“If Republicans in this state would rather be represented by a political insider, heavily influenced by special interests, who has taken liberal positions on legislation in the North Carolina State House, including Ferry Tolls, Interstate Toll HOT Lanes and the protection of telecommunication monopolies at the expense of smaller free market competitors, then Mr. Tillis is their man. Thom Tillis has certainly proven he is willing to compromise on our core conservative principles to benefit his friends.
Mr. Tillis is the poster child for why I’m in this race. I represent conservatives who are fed up with crony capitalism, special interests, political compromise and excuses. Mr. Tillis is yet another in a long line of career politicians eager to take the next step on the ladder of political power.
This primary will give Republicans the opportunity to choose the candidate who best represents the conservative values we say our party stands for. I intend to be just as steadfast in challenging my opponent in this primary to walk the walk as I will my colleagues in the U.S. Senate.”
Speaker Tillis has already picked up some rather curious defenders — Barack Obama’s goons over at Organizing for North Carolina. Check out some of the gems they have been posting on Twitter:
We were rather surprised to see Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry forego the Senate race. Berry has consistently been at the top of polling for potential GOP primary candidates. Perhaps this is a sign that the GOP establishment in Raleigh is trying to clear the deck for Tillis. (I don’t think Greg Brannon got the memo.) That makes * a lot of sense* — get rid of the frontrunner and get behind someone polling at 5 to 6 percent.
Is anyone else seeing the striking similarities to this GOP Senate primary and the 2010 Senate primary in Kentucky? In that race, the GOP establishment — led by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell — all got behind a well-funded telegenic state official (Secretary of State Trey Grayson). The only thing standing in Grayson’s path to DC was a doctor with strong Tea Party backing (Rand Paul). Anyone remember how that race turned out?
My sources tell me that some of the folks who helped engineer that 2010 win for Senator Paul will be advising the Brannon campaign. This could be fun to watch.