82 Republican state legislators named ‘Defenders of Liberty’

mcassella@newsobserver.comFebruary 5, 2014 

Eighty-two Republicans in the state legislature were named top “Defenders of Liberty” Tuesday by the American Conservative Union. Not among them: House Speaker Thom Tillis.

The ACU, which has long ranked members of Congress on their votes on conservative causes, began ranking legislators in select states, including North Carolina, in 2011.

In announcing its latest legislative winners, the ACU said, “Legislators in North Carolina are to be congratulated on passing a solid conservative agenda in 2013 that should be a model for the nation.”

The 12 bills in the group’s scorecard for North Carolina’s 2013 legislative session included: abortion legislation, which reduced access to abortions in the state; the new elections law, which eliminated same-day registration and requires a government-issued photo ID at the polls; and the new tax code which reduced both corporate and individual tax rates.

Those named top liberty defenders voted favorably on all 12 bills. Tillis voted favorably on 10 bills but missed two votes, which disqualified him from receiving the same title.

“To get the Defender of Liberty award, you are only allowed to miss one vote,” ACU spokesman Joe Kildea said. “That’s across the board.”

The votes Tillis missed were on House Bill 683 – or the “Big Gulp” bill, which prohibits cities from banning the sale of large serving sugary drinks – and House Bill 74, a sweeping overhaul of environmental regulations that supporters said would spur economic activity.

A Tillis spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Twenty-seven of the state Senate’s 33 Republicans were named “Defenders of Liberty,” including Chad Barefoot of Wake Forest, Phil Berger of Eden, Harry Brown of Jacksonville, Rick Gunn of Burlington, Neal Hunt of Raleigh, Louis Pate of Mount Olive, Ronald J. Rabin of Spring Lake, Tommy Tucker of Waxhaw and Trudy Wade of Greensboro.

In the House, 54 of 77 Republicans were named “Defenders of Liberty,” including Triangle members, Marilyn Avila of Raleigh, N. Leo Daughtry of Smithfield, Nelson Dollar of Cary, Chris Malone of Wake Forest, Tom Murry of Morrisville, Paul Stam of Apex, and Mike C. Stone of Sanford.

Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary and Rep. Jim Fulghum of Raleigh were among those who received the “ACU Conservative” award which goes to those members who voted in favor of 10 or more of the selected bills. Tillis also received the designation.

The Triangle’s Democrats were well-represented in “True Liberals of the Tar Heel State,” which goes to members who voted against each of the 12 selected bills. Those so honored in the House, included Rosa U. Gill and Deborah Ross of Raleigh, Larry D. Hall and Paul Luebke of Durham, and Verla Insko of Chapel Hill.

In the Senate, Eleanor Kinnaird of Chapel Hill, and Floyd B. McKissick, Jr. and Mike Woodard were among those named. To see the full list go here.

UPDATED: After a little behind-the-scenes maneuvering, the American Conservative Unions is revising its statement. Tillis’ campaign sent along the update. It now reads: “To be consistent with past ratings, we honor Speaker Thom Tillis as a ‘Defender of Liberty.’ It is customary that the Speaker of the House does not cast a vote for every piece of legislation.”

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