Thursday, September 25, 2014

NC's Thom Tillis Still Not Winning -- Why?

Thom Tillis
Speaker of the North Carolina House Thom Tillis won a commanding victory in the Republican US Senate primary this year, enough that his victory avoided a costly, dilatory run-off (unlike in Georgia).

Yet the first win has not translated into long-term success against Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.

Still polling a few points behind the challenger who had upset Republican Elizabeth Dole in 2008, what has Tillis failed to do, or what has he done wrong?

The state legislature has been particularly unpopular, implementing a comprehensive package of reforms which have frustrated voters. Tillis' connection as House Speaker has dragged down his US Senate bid.

What did the legislature accomplish? How has it hurt the Republican candidate's chances for victory?
Kay Hagan

The North Carolina state legislature passed comprehensive tax reforms, which lowered personal and corporate income taxes. These are all welcome reforms, but the results of these tax cuts must balance with spending cuts. The long-term impact in terms of investment and personal compensation/consumption also takes time. The overarching (and overreaching) effects of a burdensome federal government, including the regulatory uncertainty which defines the Obama Administration, has not eased the concerns of investors and small businesses, either.

Tillis can tout the tax and spending cuts, but the results will take longer than an election cycle for voters to appreciate.

The legislature extended protections for unborn children.

Feminist protestors tried to shame Governor Pat McCrory on the abortion issue. Responding to their protests outside his home, he delivered them a plate of cookies. The protests dispersed fairly quickly. Right to Life is a meaningful issue in North California, as well as the institution of marriage. In 2012, the voters approved an initiative by thirty points which defined marriage as one man and one woman.
Has Tillis run on these family values? Can Democrat Kay Hagan justified her President's expansion of gay marriage, including the  non-enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act?

Voter ID laws were also passed.

This reform is not radical, but functional and essential. Even Rhode Island, the most liberal state in the union, has a voter ID law, and this legislation passed through a supermajority Democratic legislature and a liberal Independent-turned-Democratic governor.

What else did the state legislature do, regarding education?

According to NPR, the legislature eliminated teacher tenure, removed the salary increase for a Masters Degree, and removed the cap for student enrollment in the classroom

Tillis should promote removing teacher tenure. Education activists, left and right, have targeted teacher tenure as one of the greatest impediments to a quality education, as the provision has protected the worst teachers while forcing schools to fire first those who were hired last. A recent court decision in California struck down teacher tenure. At least the North Carolina legislature took faced the issue directly.

Still, teacher salaries in North Carolina pale compared to other states, like Texas, where hundreds of teachers have moved. A North Carolina fact checker elaborated that the budget reforms restricted the salary schedule, so that new teachers will see a significant pay increase, while long-term teachers will get much less of a salary bump.

The ad wars have favored the Democratic Party, as they have raised huge sums in contrast to the Republican candidate. So far, Hagan has done well casting Tillis as an enemy of public education, a noticeable problem for North Carolina voters.

The NRA, Americans for Prosperity, and US Senator Rand Paul has stepped in to help Tillis. Whether US Senator Paul can help a potential future colleague invites debate. He rallied for a number of US Senate candidates in 2012, and they all lost. Then again, the party standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, did not help Republicans.

Will the North Carolina state legislature decide
the US Senate race in favor of Kay Hagan?
Education is a high priority in North Carolina, and perceived cuts to education have tarnished Tillis' chances for the seat. Will the new influx of campaign cash, plus the distancing of the legislative session, improve Tillis' chances for reelection?

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