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Republican Sen. Thom Tillis censured by delegates at NC GOP convention

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., speaks to reporters outside of the Senate Chambers of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on June 21, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS)

Delegates at the Republican convention in Greensboro voted Saturday to censure U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, the state party confirmed.

The vote to censure the senior Republican senator from North Carolina took place on Saturday morning, ahead of speeches later in the day by former Vice President Mike Pence and former President Donald Trump.

NCGOP spokesperson Jeff Moore confirmed that convention delegates voted to censure Tillis, who previously served as speaker of the North Carolina House before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, and winning a second six-year term in 2020.

A spokesperson for Tillis, Daniel Keylin, responded to the censure vote Saturday afternoon.

“Senator Tillis keeps his promises and delivers results. 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.

The vote was first reported by WRAL, which reported that delegates decided to censure Tillis to express their dissatisfaction with his recent efforts to broker bipartisan deals in the Senate on major issues including gun safety, immigration, and gay marriage.

Tillis has emerged in a closely divided Senate as one of a few Republicans willing to negotiate and work with moderate Democrats.

Saturday’s censure of Tillis isn’t the first time the North Carolina GOP has censured a Republican senator.

In February 2021, North Carolina Republicans convened an emergency vote to censure former U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for his decision to cast a “guilty” vote in Trump’s second impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

What motivated the censure vote

Republicans at Saturday’s convention told The News & Observer Tillis’ censure was warranted considering his votes were out of line with the GOP’s priorities.

Alamance County board of commissioners Vice Chair Steve Carter said “the consensus was a lot of people felt like he wasn’t voting in line with the plan, the party’s platform.”

Carter’s main concern was Tillis’ votes on “right-to-life issues.”

“We believe that you’re — you have a viable life from the time of conception,” he said. “That’s what the Bible says.”

Judy Carter, chairwoman of the Alamance Republican Women and Steve Carter’s wife, said the censure lets Tillis know “we didn’t approve” of many of his votes and “we want you to remember who voted for you.”

Felice Pete, president of the Wake County Republican Women, said “the censure vote happened because the people felt like Sen. Tillis no longer took account of our platform.”

“That is the only reason,” Pete said. “He is a good man. He is a fine man. I worked hard for him in the hot sun, with my son in a stroller, knocking doors. So the very least that he could do for the people back in North Carolina is stick to the platform.”

For Pete, a main contention is with Tillis’ vote to support Congress’s $1.7 trillion federal spending bill, which passed the U.S. Senate last year with 18 Republican votes in favor.

“(Tillis) did something that the constituents did not want,” Pete said. “The constituents of any Republican and most Democrats, if they understood anything, would want a good economy for the millennial’s who are not going to have jobs, because the illegals will come in and take working-class jobs and take part-time jobs for minority kids and working class kids … There’s nothing in it to close our borders with. It’s devastating to North Carolina, absolutely devastating.”

While the censure vote makes a statement, it will not “stop” Tillis from voting out of line with the GOP, Pete added.

“He could’ve been here today to defend himself,” she said. “He chose not to be here. So everybody’s like, ‘He may align with the Democrats.’ He already has. There’s only two parties. Until we have four, there are only two. Make your choice.”


© 2023 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.