Under the Dome

Tillis accuses Harris of 'going negative' and Harris fires back

House Speaker Thom Tillis recently sent a personal email to rival Mark Harris accusing him of “going negative” in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Tillis accused Harris’ campaign of trying to “tear (him) down” and referenced the two Charlotte area residents’ mutual friends.

Harris, a Baptist minister, responded quite publicly. Harris sent his reply to Tillis, and later included it in an email to his supporters Wednesday evening. In the message, Harris rejected Tillis’ assertion, saying that “discussing the facts of one's record is not ‘going negative.’”

“In all honesty, Thom, you have managed to accumulate a list of actions that at the very least show terribly poor judgment, and at the worst, a lack of political character applied to the decisions you made,” Harris wrote. “I believe this is why people are so fed up with politicians and distrust them so.”

He added later, “You and I both know that the Democrats will have a field day with you in a general. One of the reasons I filed for this seat is my genuine concern about who is the best person to defeat Kay Hagan, and to represent North Carolina in the US Senate. If you think your record is a secret and is not to be shared with the public, then you and I have even more differences than you think we have.”

The sharp language is emblematic of Harris’ aggressive new approach in the campaign. A Dome report about the Harris campaign’s plans to questioned Tillis’ character spurred the initial email late last week.

Both campaigns declined to provide Tillis’ original email, saying it was meant to be private. But much of the contents are repeated in Harris’ response.

Tillis campaign spokesman Jordan Shaw said two men have known each other for years and Tillis wanted to express concern about the campaign’s direction. Shaw declined to respond to specific points in Harris’ email. But he added, “We are going to stay focused on uniting conservatives to defeat Kay Hagan in November instead of trying to divide conservatives by using desperate campaign tactics.”

In the email to supporters, Harris said his rival’s campaign “is in full panic mode,” and referenced reports that Republican strategist Karl Rove’s political organization was planning a television advertising campaign to boost Tillis.

Shaw offered this retort: “That may be the case for them, but not for us.”

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