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Outside group hits Tillis on health care record in new ad

Battle for North Carolina Senate will be one of nation’s most intense

Majority Forward, a nonprofit organization that backs Democratic candidates, is launching a seven-figure attack ad Tuesday against North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, one of the chamber’s most vulnerable members. 

The new spot, which the group says will air on television and over digital platforms, keeps with Democrats’ predominant theme of health care, saying that Tillis, who is seeking a second term, “bragged” about thwarting Medicaid expansion in North Carolina when he was speaker of the state House. 

“I am the speaker of the House that made it illegal to expand Medicaid,” Tillis says in footage from the ad.

Majority Forward is affiliated with Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC that works in support of the party’s Senate candidates. Senate Majority PAC announced in March that it was planning to spend at least $25.6 million in North Carolina starting in the fall. Majority Forward said in May it would reserve $4.2 million for North Carolina starting July 12. The ad launching Tuesday is in addition to all that.

Andrew Romeo, the Tillis campaign’s communications director, told CQ Roll Call in an email that the senator believes the decision to expand Medicaid should be left up to the state based on “financial sustainability” and that, at that time, the program had been mismanaged.

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“Senator Tillis saved Medicaid in North Carolina because expanding it when he was Speaker would have been fiscally irresponsible and would have done long term harm to the program and the state’s overall budget,” Romeo said in an email. “Senator Tillis’ decision to fix it before expanding is what has North Carolina in a better position to expand it today if state leaders choose to do so.”

Majority Forward spokesman Matt Corridoni said that the incumbent senator’s “track record of voting to deny access to health care to half-a-million North Carolinians tells you that Thom Tillis is no friend to working families.”

Tillis faces a tough reelection against Democrat Cal Cunningham, an Army veteran and former state senator, who has outraised Tillis in political contributions during the first quarter of this year.  Cunningham’s campaign held about $3 million on hand as of March 31, while Tillis reported $6.5 million in the bank, according to campaign disclosures.

The new ad from Majority Forward is the latest example of how costly the North Carolina Senate race will be — and how much of the money will flow outside of either Tillis’ or Cunningham’s campaigns directly. 

Tillis is already facing pressure on the health care front from different outside groups that are spending in pivotal Senate races.

Tillis is getting a boost from independent organizations, too.

In recent days, the conservative outside group Americans for Prosperity Action has spent heavily in support of Tillis, including more than $320,000 on a digital ad buy, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.   
The Tillis campaign launched its second ad of the general election last week, focused on the economy and helping constituents get back to work amid record unemployment because of the coronavirus. “My job is fighting for your job,” the senator says in the 30-second spot.

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