by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Conservatives in North Carolina have not forgiven Sen. Thom Tillis for initially opposing President Trump’s border emergency, and the Republican could face a competitive primary in 2020 despite ultimately backing the White House.
Tillis voted against a Democratic resolution that would have blocked Trump from declaring a national emergency along the southern border. But grassroots Republicans back home are still fuming about the senator’s original plan to support the legislation on constitutional grounds. Sensing weakness after Tillis essentially flip-flopped, activists and some party officials are talking about fielding a primary challenger.
“The words I heard more times than not were ‘too little, too late,’” Dianne Parnell, the Rockingham County GOP chairwoman, said in a telephone interview with the Washington Examiner. “I feel like he’s just not listening to the people.”
Tillis, 58, supports Trump’s immigration agenda and votes with the president on legislation nearly 95% of the time, according to analysis from FiveThirtyEight. But the Republican base in North Carolina is particularly pro-Trump and views Tillis as an establishment insider. Public opinion polls have shown damage to his personal favorability ratings since late last year. …
… [F]or the time being, at least, Tillis stirred up a hornet’s nest of intra-party opposition. Rep. Mark Walker, a conservative favorite, has indicated he might run against Tillis in the GOP primary. Tucker Garland, the wealthy former CEO of a North Carolina investment firm, also is examining a primary challenge. He has the money to self-fund a campaign. Others also might also consider a run.