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9.15.20

In First Debate, Cal Cunningham Puts Tillis “In The Pocket Of Corporate Interests,” While Tillis “Found Himself On The Defensive Over His Record”

Senator Tillis’s Failed Response To The Coronavirus Pandemic “Took Center Stage,” While Cal Laid Out His Priorities To Fight For North Carolinians 

RALEIGH, NC — In the first of three statewide debates in the Senate race, Cal Cunningham made his case to North Carolina voters, underscoring a clear contrast between himself and Senator Thom Tillis on key issues like combatting the coronavirus pandemic, health care, and corruption in Washington. 

WXII emphasized that “Cunningham’s main focus was his promise to listen to the voices of North Carolina if elected.” 

As expected, “Tillis found himself on the defensive over his record,” while Cal used the debate to remind voters that while Cal will put North Carolina first, Tillis is “in the pocket of corporate interests” which is why Tillis has “flip-flopped on key issues, like his support of Mr. Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall.” 

WUNC noted Cal’s strong rebuke of Tillis’ “about-face in 2019 after bucking the President. ‘I mean let me borrow a moment from scripture here: He’d be able to see the speck of dust in my eye better if he got the plank out of his own – seriously,’ Cunningham said.”

As Senator Tillis’ failed response to the COVID-19 crisis is top of mind for North Carolina voters, the topic “took center stage” in the debate last night as “Cunningham came out swinging” and called it an “unprecedented failure of leadership.” 

While “[b]y his own admission, Sen. Tillis did nothing for over a month,” Cal laid out his priorities for providing additional COVID-19 relief. The Gaston Gazette writes: “The nation needs a stronger coronavirus response, Cunningham said, and he called for expanding Medicaid health insurance to cover more low-income people and more unemployment benefits and other programs. ‘Instead we have seen a colossal failure of leadership in Washington,’ Cunningham said.”

Cal also laid out a contrast on health care: “Cunningham said the state was more susceptible to the ravages of the virus because as speaker of the North Carolina House, Mr. Tillis helped block the expansion of Medicaid in the state, and then in the Senate, he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

One key moment on health care emerged when Cal raised the WRAL investigation in which Tillis’ office dismissed a cancer survivor’s concerns about access to health care. That’s part and parcel to Tillis’ health care stance, blocking Medicaid expansion as Speaker of the North Carolina House and voting 15 times to partially or fully repeal the Affordable Care Act once he went to Washington. 

In the debate, “Cunningham criticized the treatment that a Tillis staffer gave a constituent (first reported by WRAL) when she sought help and advice in getting health insurance after her husband was furloughed due to the coronavirus.”

It’s clear North Carolinians are ready for a change of leadership. Moments before Cal took the stage, a new poll from WRAL came out showing Cal with a seven point edge over Tillis, with the pollster saying Tillis’ “support among independents has faded.” North Carolinians are ready for a Senator that works for all 10 million people of our state, not someone who has “oscillated between acting the part of a political independent willing to buck Mr. Trump and a presidential foot soldier.” 

Read more: 

  • New York Times: “Mr. Cunningham accused Mr. Tillis of waiting too long to defend the country against the spread of the coronavirus, and of being party to “an unprecedented failure of leadership in this country” by Washington. He repeatedly argued Mr. Tillis was in the pocket of corporate interests, and had flip-flopped on key issues, like his support of Mr. Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall.”
  • Associated Press: “Cunningham, a Raleigh attorney and Iraq War veteran, blamed Tillis for failing to act after the first time he was briefed on the virus in late January. ‘I think that we are seeing and experiencing an unprecedented failure of leadership in this country,’ he said. ‘By his own admission, Sen. Tillis did nothing for over a month.’”
  • WFAE: “Cunningham said systemic racism shows up in education, housing and it ‘shows up in health care in the midst of this crisis when North Carolina is 22% African American but almost 40% of the COVID diagnoses because of inequities in access to health care.’”