Texas Gov. Rick Perry told those gathered at a Republican rally Friday night that North Carolina is on pace to reach his state’s level of economic success within five years, pointing to the leadership of House Speaker Thom Tillis.
Perry headlined the event – billed as the largest conservative rally in the state – which filled a cavernous tobacco warehouse with hundreds of the GOP faithful and Republican candidates campaigning for state legislative and judicial seats.
“We’ve created more jobs than any other state in the nation,” Perry told the cheering crowd. “We have shown the rest of the country, here’s how you can make a real difference. You’re about five years behind that in North Carolina.”
Perry also had high praise for Tillis, the marquee candidate at the rally.
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“He will go to Washington, D.C., and do everything he can to dismantle Obamacare,” Perry said. “He will say no to things like Common Core. He will say no to things like Race to the Top.”
Perry said that a Tillis victory could propel Republicans to a Senate majority, and that change could mean Sen. Richard Burr – also on stage Friday – would become chair of the intelligence committee. “It has concentric circles of influence going out across this country,” Perry said.
As Election Day draws closer, both parties are sending their biggest stars to North Carolina’s Senate race. Tillis has campaigned with former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain, and he’ll hold a fundraiser on Wednesday with former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, Tillis’ Democratic opponent, has a rally scheduled Saturday in Charlotte with potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Former President Bill Clinton has already attended a fundraiser for Hagan.
With high stakes on the national level, speakers at Friday’s event were as quick to bash Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as they were to mention Hagan. “I’m here to help elect Harry Reid as minority leader of the United States Senate, and sit him on the back row where he belongs,” state Rep. Leo Daughtry of Smithfield said.
Others forecast the consequences of Democrats keeping the majority. “If you don’t elect Thom Tillis, you may very well see (Attorney General) Eric Holder on the Supreme Court of the United States,” state Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson said to a chorus of boos.
Newton also stressed that Republicans shouldn’t ignore judicial races at the bottom of the ballot, pointing to the recent court rulings that made gay marriage legal in North Carolina. “I don’t believe some Obama-appointed, unelected judge up in Virginia gets to tell us what marriage is,” he said.
While the state’s judicial races are officially nonpartisan, six GOP-endorsed candidates for N.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals took the stage for introductions. Gov. Pat McCrory and David Rouzer, a candidate for the 7th Congressional District, also spoke.
Before the speeches began, people munched on free barbecue and lined up for photos with the politicians. The longest lines were for Perry, with smaller crowds surrounding Tillis and McCrory.
Perry’s presence also drew a dozen or so Planned Parenthood protesters outside the warehouse, with one dressed as a package of birth control pills. The group sought to draw parallels between Perry and Tillis on issues like abortion and access to contraceptives.
“The situation in Texas is a cautionary tale that could apply to every single woman across the United States if we allow anti-women’s health politicians like Thom Tillis to take control of the U.S. Senate,” said Melissa Reed, director of the Planned Parenthood Health Systems Action Fund.