Although this scenario seems counterintuitive, North Carolinians often split their votes between Democratic and Republican candidates. North Carolina is the definition of a “purple state,” with almost an equal number of Democratic and Republican senators elected since 1950.
In 2016, Trump carried the state by over three percentage points, but Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper defeated Republican incumbent Pat McCrory. The parallels between McCrory and Tillis suggest that 2020 might be a repeat of 2016.
One of the concerns that North Carolina voters had about McCrory was that they were not sure what kind of Republican he was. Elected as a moderate Republican mayor of Charlotte, McCrory moved to the right once elected governor, siding with the most conservative elements in the legislature and supporting the so-called “bathroom bill” (HB2), which prohibited transgendered individuals from using the public restrooms associated with their new identity.
Thom Tillis’ political history raises similar questions. Is he the pragmatic Republican he was when he served as the Cornelius town commissioner or in his first two terms in the state General Assembly? Or, is he the hard-right conservative who fought for low taxes and abortion restrictions as the House speaker?