In a rare public appearance, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis Tuesday dismissed critics who say he’s ducking debates and said he’s “chomping at the bit” to tout his legislative record.
The N.C. House speaker said he has been tied up raising money for a campaign that has national implications.
“This is a national race, people need to understand,” he said in an interview. “This is a statewide race in terms of the electorate. It’s a national race in terms of the interest in winning a majority in the U.S. Senate. The candidate who fails to recognize that … is a candidate who cannot win in November.”
Tillis is among a half dozen Republicans running for right to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. He spoke to reporters before making brief comments to about 60 supporters squeezed into his headquarters in Cornelius, his hometown.
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Reports filed last month show that Tillis has raised $1.8 million, three times as much as any other Republican candidate but far behind Hagan’s nearly $10 million.
Tillis – who travels to New York this week – said he’s focusing on fund-raising until the end of the month and then will go on a more public campaign trail.
“I can’t wait until I’m in more settings like this and less time on the fund-raising (circuit),” he told supporters. “That’s where I’m spending my time right now.”
While virtually every primary candidate has been raising money, Tillis said he’s keeping an eye on November.
“Any candidate that wants to be a serious candidate against Kay Hagan better be out there raising money,” he said. “We have a huge challenge to match the level of fund-raising the Democrats have already committed to the state.”
The race already has seen some of the highest levels of outside spending in the country. Americans for Prosperity, a pro-Republican group, has led the way, spending more than $6.8 million on ads against Hagan.
Two Democratic groups, meanwhile, have attacked Tillis.
Some Republicans, especially those with the tea party, have criticized the speaker’s low visibility. He has skipped four candidate forums with his GOP rivals. Tillis bristled at the suggestion he’s ducking debates.
“If somebody thinks that I’m hesitant to talk about a three-year track record of the biggest tax decreases, the largest regulatory reform, medical malpractice reform, pro-life, pro-family, pro-second amendment bills, if somebody thinks I’m not chomping at the bit to go out and tell people what this legislature has done, they haven’t paid attention,” he said.
He told supporters that he can’t wait to talk about record of the first General Assembly in over a century controlled by Republicans under a Republican governor.
“The difference between me and my opponents is they get up and talk about what they may do,” he said. I get up and talk about what I’ve done. Am I ashamed of that? I’m chomping at the bit.”