CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Republican Senator Thom Tillis has represented North Carolina in the United States Senate for eight years. He narrowly won re-election for a second term in 2020. Queen City News Chief Political Correspondent Emma Withrow sat down with Tillis to discuss the progress he has made while in office.
The Senator’s career in politics began much further back than the seat he currently sits in and on a much smaller scale. It started in 2002, in Mecklenburg County when Tillis was urging the town of Cornelius to put in a local bike trail. He was elected to the town’s Park Board, and a year later ran for Town Commissioner.
Tillis went on to run for the North Carolina General Assembly and later was chosen to be the Speaker of the North Carolina House. But after almost a decade in state politics, Tillis decided he was ready for more of a challenge and launched his campaign for a United States Senate Seat, that a democratic incumbent currently sat in.
In 2014 Tillis won the seat with one of the smallest margins in North Carolina history. Fast forward to 2022, he’s now a little over a year into his second term as a U.S. Senator.
“What I try to do is block out what I think are the distractions at either end of the political spectrum and get things done that I think help North Carolinians and help the nation,” Tillis said.
But blocking out either end of the political spectrum can be tough during such a polarizing time in history.
“I work a lot with Democrats, I reach across the aisle frequently to work on things that we agree on. And we do it in Judiciary Committee and Senate Armed Services, Veterans Committee, even Banking,” Tillis explained when asked how his bipartisanship has been.
Tillis was one of 19 republican senators who voted in favor of the Democrats infrastructure package this past fall. The bill included millions of dollars for North Carolina roads, bridges and more.
But ignoring party lines and voting his conscience has gotten Tillis in trouble, with some conservatives labeling him a RINO, which stands for “Republican in name only”. But Tillis said he invented a new meaning of the term and doesn’t care about the naysayers, he calls himself a RINO (a republican in need of outcomes).
“We’ve reintroduced a toxic exposures bill in Veterans Affairs Committee to do right by those who were exposed to toxic substances when they were abroad or even at home for that matter. We were successful in getting the Paws for Veterans Therapy Act passed to the President’s desk, which is giving more veterans the opportunity to have service dogs, which have proven to be very helpful.”
Veterans have been top of mind for Tillis after President Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal left thousands of vets struggling, and thousands of Afghans stranded. Tillis said even to this day his office is working to help those who were impacted by this tragic event.
“We’ve made progress. We were very active in our office, we had a list of over 900 people, either, SIV holders, American citizens, or people with the green card. And we got several out before we exited the Kabul airport. And we’ve got out more since the withdrawal. We’re continuing to work on it. And we’re not going to stop until we’re convinced that everybody who should have gotten out, did get out.”
Senator Tillis has a long way to go until he has to decide whether or not he’s running for re-election. So until 2026, he plans on focusing on securing the southern border, getting the economy back on track, and making national defense a main priority.