Senator Censured by North Carolina GOP Over Pattern of Siding With Democrats

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
June 12, 2023Politics
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Senator Censured by North Carolina GOP Over Pattern of Siding With Democrats
Sen. Thomas Tillis (R-N.C.) speaks as Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 14, 2020. (Ken Cedeno/Pool/Getty Images)

The North Carolina Republican Party has censured one of the state’s two U.S. senators over his siding with Democrats on key legislation, including a bill that restricts gun ownership.

Party delegates on June 10 voted to censure Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) over his votes on bills like the Respect for Marriage Act, which overturned a law that defined marriage as between a man and woman, and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which expanded federal background checks and featured incentives for states to pass laws that enable judges to strip some people of their ability to possess guns.

While the vote, which took place behind closed doors, cannot remove Tillis from office, supporters said they hope it sends a firm message of dissatisfaction. At least two-thirds of the state party’s 1,801 voting delegates voted to pass the censure resolution, party spokesperson Jeff Moore said.

“We need people who are unwavering in their support for conservative ideals,” said Jim Forster, an 81-year-old delegate from Guilford. “His recent actions don’t reflect the party’s shift to the right—in fact, they’re moving in the exact wrong direction.”

Daniel Keylin, a spokesperson for Tillis, defended the senator’s voting record.

“He will never apologize for his work passing the largest tax cut in history, introducing legislation to secure the border and end sanctuary cities, delivering desperately-needed funding to strengthen school safety and protecting the rights of churches to worship freely based on their belief in traditional marriage,” Keylin said.

Keylin did not respond when asked how Tillis learned of the censure.

Some in the state said they opposed the move, including former Gov. Pat McCrory.

“It’s time also for all NC state and federal elected republicans to stand with Thom and publicly voice their opposition to the action taken at our convention,” McCrory said in a social media post.

“I believe that a mob mentality doesn’t do us any good,” added state Sen. Bobby Hanig, a Republican. “Senator Tillis does a lot for North Carolina, he does a lot for the coastal communities, so why would I want to make him mad?”

Shift

Tillis, 62, has represented North Carolina in the U.S. Senate since 2015, after serving in the state legislature for eight years.

Tillis knocked off Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) in the 2015 election by capturing 1.4 million votes to her 1.3 million, and won a second term in 2020 by staving off Democrat Cal Cunningham by about 100,000 votes.

Tillis became North Carolina’s senior senator when former Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) retired in early 2023 rather than try for another six years in office, but he has been attracting criticism for his shift on key issues such as marriage.

Tillis opposed changing the definition of marriage earlier in his political career. While he was speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, he helped lead an effort to ban same-sex marriage in the state.

“The fundamentals are, the institution of marriage, which has traditionally been defined as the union of man and woman, is something I’m at peace with,” he said at the time.

When the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges ruled that states were required to give marriage licenses to two people, regardless of whether they are of the same sex, Tillis vowed to appeal the ruling.

The North Carolina Republican Party’s official position is that marriage between a man and a woman “must be upheld as the national standard.”

Tillis defended his vote on the Respect for Marriage Act after he helped hammer out an agreement with Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Sinema has since become an independent while Portman is no longer in office.

The senators said that the agreement would “protect marriage equality” while respecting and protecting “Americans’ religious liberties.”

Tillis told reporters in a briefing that the situation has changed since he opposed same-sex marriage.

“When I make decisions, I make decisions based on current data, current facts,” he said. “The current data and current facts have changed.”

The Dare County GOP previously censured Tillis, declaring Tillis, through his vote for the new bill, “deliberately abandoned the national and state party platforms on marriage; and whereas his rejection of such a crucial plank of the GOP platform has damaged the reputation of his party and further marginalized the natural family.”

The NC Values Coalition also decried the vote. “Voters are tired of sending elected representatives to Washington who betray their values,” Tami Fitzgerald, the coalition’s executive director, said in a statement.

Others praised Tillis and Burr, who also voted for the bill.

“Thank you, Sen Thom Tillis, for your leadership on this bipartisan bill,” the group Southern Equality said.

Burr also voted for the bill while his eventual replacement, Sen. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), voted against it as a member of the House of Representatives.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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