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GOP senator who vowed to do town hall meetings hasn't held one in 5 years

Rather than traditional town halls, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) prefers to meet with Republican-friendly audiences.

By Dan Desai Martin - October 16, 2019
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Thom Tillis

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) hasn’t held a traditional, in-person town hall in years despite vowing to do so when he became a senator in 2014, a WFAE investigation found.

On Tuesday, the Charlotte-area NPR station reported that Tillis did not hold any town halls in 2015 and 2016, and only held a telephone town hall in 2017. WFAE found no evidence Tillis held any town halls in 2018 or thus far in 2019.

The lack of town halls breaks a key campaign pledge Tillis made when he was elected to the Senate.

“I’ll be home every weekend, I’ll travel back every week, and I’ll spend time going out and doing what I did when I became speaker — town hall meetings,” Tillis said shortly after his 2014 victory. “Talk about what your priorities are. Listening and speaking to them.”

But rather than hold meetings open to all North Carolinians, WFAE reports Tillis handpicks Republican-friendly groups to meet with, such as a Charlotte Business Alliance event in the summer of 2019 and a meeting last week with a small group of farmers in Union County.

Tillis defended himself, saying selective meetings not open to the public are the same thing as town halls.

“I did it down in Fort Bragg,” Tillis told WFAE. “I did it down in Camp Lejeune,” he added, referring to a military base that will lose $80 million in funding because Tillis voted to let Trump swipe it to build a border wall.

When WFAE asked Tillis’ staff if he had held “a traditional town hall open to everyone,” the staff refused to comment.

In a statement about the investigation, the North Carolina Democratic Party referred to Tillis as “a weak, cowardly politician who’s too timid to face his constituents.”

The news of Tillis’ broken pledge comes the same week Tillis reported his fundraising numbers dropped by almost 40% over the summer compared to the spring of 2019.

Tillis, a first-term senator, is facing a Republican primary opponent seeking to paint Tillis as insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump. As a result, Tillis was forced to drop millions of dollars on television ads bragging about how close he is to Trump.

“If anyone needed a sign that Tillis is vulnerable in a primary, this ad is a flashing red light,” Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said about the ad buy.

There is no way to tell if Tillis would be as vulnerable as he is today if he had kept his pledge to meet regularly with the people of North Carolina.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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