Two Senators are elected from each state (100 total) to serve 6 year terms in US Congress. In North Carolina, Sen. Thom Tillis's seat is up for re-election in 2020.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R)
Tillis' Platform TLDR
Tillis prioritizes tangible economic growth for working families in North Carolina, seeing regulation and high taxes as a major impediment.
He believes that partisan politics have stunted progress in the area of immigration, and he is committing to putting a stop to it.
While standing in opposition to the ACA, Tillis is committed to protecting patients with preexisting conditions.
Concerning the environment, Tillis was one of the 22 Senators that urged President Trump to leave the Paris Climate Accords.
Tillis votes in agreement with President Trump 93.4% of the time.
Cal Cunningham (D)
Cunningham's Platform TLDR
Cal Cunningham is running to unseat Thom Tillis because he believes North Carolinians are ready for a new leader who will look out for them, not corporate special interests.
Cunningham believes in a fair and tangible economy for all, and says he will fight to promote good-paying full-time jobs with benefits and to rein in the cost of higher education.
Cunningham supports protecting and expanding the ACA and Medicaid to ensure lower cost and accessible healthcare.
Cunningham prioritizes improving the education system and taking on the crisis of climate change in North Carolina and in Washington. He supports investing in a clean energy economy.
Meet the candidates:
Bio: Thom Tillis understands the American Dream and has dedicated his time in the Senate to generating economic growth through common sense policies and opportunities for working families. Ahead of serving in Congress, he was elected to the NC House and served as the Speaker until joining the Senate in 2014. Tillis currently serves on committees: Armed Services; Veterans’ Affairs; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Judiciary.
Bio: Cal Cunningham was raised in Lexington, NC, and first entered the world of politics at the age of 27, when he was elected as one of the state’s youngest State Senators, representing Davidson, Rowan and Iredell counties. In the legislature, Cal fought for smaller class sizes, higher teacher pay, investments in early childhood education, clean air legislation, and campaign finance reform. After 9/11, Cal volunteered to join the U.S. Army Reserve and has since served three active duty tours, including overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result of his service, Cal was awarded the Bronze Star and the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership award. Cal continues to serve in the the rank of Lieutenant Colonel with the Army Reserve unit. Cal has also served as the general counsel and Vice President of an environmental company, which aims to support waste reduction in municipalities across North Carolina.
who's supporting who?
Tillis's Legislative Scorecard
(elected officials only)
0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign measuring vote history for issues impacting the LGBTQ community.
0% rating from Planned Parenthood measuring votes on key legislation in support for women’s health.
9% lifetime score and 21% 2019 score by the League of Conservation Voters on the National Environmental Scorecard.
9% rating from the ACLU evaluating votes on civil liberties and civil rights.
84% rating from the National Tax Limitation Committee
100% rating from the National Federation of Independent Businesses
75% rating from the United States Chamber of Commerce
83% rating from the American Conservative Union
34% general approval rating
Tillis votes in agreement with Trump 93.4% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.
A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. Tillis is the 4th largest recipient of their funding.
On the issues:
US Senate candidates
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Earlier this year, Tillis joined some of his colleagues in asking the Supreme Court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade. In 2018, Tillis joined a coalition of Senators to support the state's prohibition of Medicaid funding to local Planned Parenthood clinics. In the NC House, he pushed for a law that would require abortion providers to perform an ultrasound on women seeking abortions. He has been endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List and the National Right to Life Committee.
Tillis is vocally pro-life.
Cunningham believes that a woman’s choice is a woman’s right. He has committed to protecting Roe v. Wade against partisan attacks, and is strongly opposed to partisan efforts in Washington to attack and defund Planned Parenthood, which he says provides health care services to thousands of North Carolinians. He has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Organization for Women.
Cunningham is pro-choice.
In 2013, then-Speaker of the NC House Tillis passed one of the most restrictive voter suppression laws in the country, which were supposedly intended to preserve the "integrity of the ballot." A federal judge later struck down the law, finding it to be “motivated, at least in part, by racially discriminatory intent.” In 2019, Tillis voted for the Combating BDS Act which would encourage states to adopt measures intended to suppress political expression that disagrees with the government's stance on Israel. The bill ultimately failed because it was not in accordance with the First Amendment. Tillis has taken over $2.2 million from corporate PACs like Big Pharma and oil and gas companies and is endorsed by the Citizen's United Political Victory Fund. In July 2020, Tillis refuted President Trump's suggestion that the election should be postponed, saying, "The election is going to happen in November, period." Tillis is reportedly undecided on bills to expand mail-in voting for the 2020 General Election.
Tillis played a key role in NC's controversial 2013 voter ID laws.
Cunningham supports campaign finance reform and independent redistricting. Cunningham has refused any corporate PAC money and pledged to support efforts to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. He has accepted funds from non-corporate PACs, however, and faced criticism because of it. He supports the Senate reforming the filibuster rule and has pledged to never become a lobbyist after leaving the Senate. Cunningham took Common Cause's End Gerrymandering Pledge and is endorsed by End Citizen's United. On voting rights, Cunningham supports expanding access to voting and preventing voter suppression by restoring the Voting Rights Act, extending early voting and making it easier to register to vote by enacting reforms like automatic voter registration at 18 and making Election Day a federal holiday. Cunningham does not support voter ID laws.
Cunningham supports campaign finance reform and 'ending
3. Criminal Justice
Tillis has been a bipartisan actor in the area of criminal justice reform. He reflects that “it makes sense on so many levels, and when done right, criminal justice reform makes our communities safer, families stronger, and individuals more productive and prosperous.” He has been active in numerous pieces of legislation including the 2018 bipartisan FIRST STEP Act, which included provisions for sentencing reform. In 2017, Tillis penned an op-ed with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware calling for urgent criminal justice reform. He is strongly opposed to defunding the police and does not support the Justice in Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants at the federal level. Tillis received a 9% rating from the ACLU based on votes on civil liberties and civil rights. He received a C rating from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Tillis works across the aisle on criminal justice reforms.
Cunningham believes criminal justice reform and mental health and substance abuse services are necessary to prevent violent crimes. Cunningham also supports innovations in restorative justice, curbing the abuse of cash bail, eliminating for-profit prisons, and allowing states to develop their own regulation and taxation of cannabis, while putting resources into public health. He believes states should be free to develop their own regulation and taxation of cannabis, while putting resources into public health and substance abuse treatment. Cunningham believes that '21st century police reform' will require greater investment in police, not defunding it. He received an A rating from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Cunningham believes in '21st century criminal justice reform.'
Tillis feels strongly about supporting North Carolina families through significant income and business tax cuts. He feels that there is too much red tape leading him to roll back “harmful Obama-era regulations a record 16 times”. Especially in a state developing new business at the rate of NC, Tillis believes reducing regulations and clearing red tape will spur innovation and competition. Tillis is not in favor of setting or increasing a minimum wage. Tillis was endorsed by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Campaign for Working Families.
Tillis supports a free market approach to the economy and is against imposing minimum wage.
Cunningham has committed to fighting for a more ‘equitable economy and living wage’ by: supporting efforts to promote good-paying full-time jobs with benefits, rein in the cost of higher education and health care, defend workplace protections and raise the minimum wage. Cunningham supports efforts to close the wage gap and ensure paycheck fairness for all women. Cunningham says he will support NC's agricultural sector by defending farming families against tariffs and expanding access to rural broadband. Also, Cunningham believes in making investments in the nation’s infrastructure, research and development, as well as NC’s growing technology and biotechnology sectors. Cunningham says he is committed to promoting innovative policies that break down historical barriers and encourage capital investment in communities of color and minority-owned businesses to reverse, in his words, ‘the legacy of economic injustice.’ Cunningham was endorsed by several different workers unions, including the AFL-CIO.
Cunningham supports a 'more equitable economy and living wage.'
As the former PTA President of his daughter’s public high school, Tillis says he understands the importance of providing educational opportunities for all students. Tillis introduced the bipartisan GEAR UP for Success Act, a federal grant program that seeks to increase college readiness for low-income and underrepresented students. In a 2014 debate, Tillis said he opposes Common Core and would eliminate the US Education Department if choosing one to cut. In 2017, Tillis voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, citing increased opportunities for charter schools and school choice. By April 2019, billionaire DeVos and family members already contributed $22,400 to Tillis' reelection campaign. Tillis has accepted $26,500 from for-profit college corporate PACs and supports increased school choice, which Democrats claim is code for the privatization of education.
Tillis believes in school choice and Betsy DeVos' vision of the American education system.
Cunningham has pledged to fight for NC students and for higher pay for teachers. He supports emphasis on recruiting African American and Latinx people into teaching to reflect NC's diversity. Cunningham supports funding Title I and the "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act." He supports investment in specialized instructional support personnel, including counselors, psychologists and other professionals. If elected, Cunningham pledges to lower the cost of college, expand access to community college and technical training and reduce the burden of student loan debt. Cunningham supports increasing federal government investment and support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities in North Carolina. He says he supports charter schools, but not at the price of public schools. Cunningham is endorsed by the North Carolina Association of Educators.
Cunningham believes in public education as 'an engine of opportunity for all.'
Tillis's current platform says, "Both parties need to work together to deploy an innovative, market-driven strategy to combat the impacts of climate change." However, in his 2014 campaign, Tillis said that climate change was not a fact. In 2015, he voted against an amendment that identified climate change as human-caused. Tillis also urged Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. He later backtracked in 2018, finally acknowledging human impact on the climate. He still opposes the Green New Deal, arguing it is too expensive and heavy-handed. He believes in 'market-based solutions' to climate change and supports the solar industry. He has received a lifetime score of 9% from the League of Conservation Voters.
Tillis wants find 'market-based solutions' to climate change.
Cunningham believes that North Carolina has already seen the effects of climate change through historic storms and floods that have ravaged the state. To fight the environmental crisis, Cunningham believes we must invest in a clean energy economy that will create good-paying jobs and reduce carbon pollution. Cunningham supports efforts to move to 100% renewable energy by 2050, rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and retrain workers for green energy jobs. Cunningham opposes the Green New Deal. He was endorsed by environmental advocacy groups the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.
Cunningham believes climate change is one of the most urgent issues we face.
Following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, Tillis said, "I think we have to take a look at school safety, we have to take a look at things that really make a difference," such as background checks. In practice, however, Tillis has consistently voted against background check proposals. Tillis was the 4th largest recipient of NRA funding at $4.5 million in his last election cycle, with fellow NC's Senator Burr ahead of him at nearly $7 million. The NRA spent more money on NC elections than any other state. Tillis received an A+ rating from the NRA and was endorsed by them in 2020, calling Tillis "the only candidate for U.S. Senate in North Carolina that we can count on to support your firearms freedoms." He has received criticism from gun advocacy group Grass Roots NC, however, for his support of red flag laws.
Tillis received an A+ rating and the 4th largest amount of funding from the NRA.
Cunningham supports expanding background checks, banning the sale of high-capacity magazines, funding gun violence research and passing red flag laws. Back in 2000, Cunningham received an A rating from the NRA and voted to support a 2002 bill that would not allow people to sue gun manufacturers. However, after deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Cunningham said, "This is a moral moment and we need leaders who will act,” in an August 2018 statement. Cunningham also served on Gov. Cooper’s Crime Commission and has now been endorsed by the Brady Campaign, which favors many gun safety measures, as well as Everytown For Gun Safety, asserting that, "As an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, Cal Cunningham understands that gun safety and responsible gun ownership are one and the same."
Cunningham supports 'common-sense' gun violence prevention.
8. Health Care
Tillis opposes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and does not believe health care is a government responsibility. While he faults the ACA, he is committed to protecting patients with preexisting conditions, introducing the Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act and the Protect Act, which would not go as far as the ACA. Tillis also feels strongly about destigmatizing mental health and has taken strong action to combat the opioid crisis in North Carolina.
Tillis opposes the Affordable Care Act.
If elected, Cunningham says he will fight to strengthen and extend coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), expand Medicaid in North Carolina, create a public health insurance option, support rural hospitals and address doctor shortages. Cunningham supports lowering the cost of prescription drugs and standing up to politicians and special interests who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Cunningham does not support Medicare for All.
Cunningham supports the Affordable Care Act.
Tillis believes that partisan politics have stunted progress in the area of immigration, and he is committed to putting a stop to it. He has “consistently raised concerns about the continued consequences of insecure borders.” Granted we have the technology and personnel, we must break this gridlock. Tillis is a strong supporter of President Trump's plan to secure our borders and keep America safe but vocally opposed Trump’s policy for family separation. Tillis hopes to find a commonsense middle ground on DACA.
Tillis supports secure borders, walls, and merit-based immigration for the economy.
Cunningham supports ‘comprehensive immigration reform,’ meaning protecting DREAMers, providing a fair pathway to citizenship and investing in technology and trained staff to secure borders. He opposes separating families and caging children. Cunningham is not opposed to a mixture of physical barriers, technology and manpower on the border. Cunningham has also stood in opposition to Trump and Tillis’ efforts to divert millions of dollars from North Carolina military bases to build a wall along the entirety of the southern border.
Cunningham wants to 'reject the politics of fear' to fix our broken immigration system.
10. LGBTQIA+ Rights
Tillis considers himself to be a “pro-LGBTQ Republican," a phrase coined by the American Unity Fund, a conservative gay rights group. However, as Speaker of the NC House of Representatives in 2012, he supported North Carolina's Amendment One ban of same-sex marriage. Tillis also voted to repeal the ACA and its core provisions, making it harder for LGBTQIA+ members living with HIV to obtain health care. In 2017, he tried to find middle ground in the compromise to repeal HB2, North Carolina's "bathroom bill."
Tillis has a mixed voting record on LGBTQIA+ rights.
Cunningham supports advancing the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), passing the Equality Act to protect LGBTQIA+ North Carolinians from discrimination in housing and the workplace, reforming the criminal justice system and restoring the Voting Rights Act. In 2012, Cunningham opposed an anti-gay marriage amendment, stating, “It’s okay to wrestle in your heart and with your faith about marriage and civil unions and partnerships, but writing discrimination into our state Constitution is plain wrong.” Cunningham is endorsed by Equality NC, a gay rights organization based in Raleigh.
Cunningham says he stands with the LGBTQIA+ community against 'regressive policies.'