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Thom Tillis
Thom Tillis Official Photo.jpg
United States Senator
from North Carolina
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Serving with Richard Burr
Preceded byKay Hagan
Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives
In office
January 26, 2011 – January 3, 2015
Preceded byJoe Hackney
Succeeded byTim Moore
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
from the 98th district
In office
January 2007 – January 3, 2015
Preceded byJohn Rhodes
Succeeded byJohn R. Bradford III
Personal details
Thomas Roland Tillis

(1960-08-30) August 30, 1960 (age 59)
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Susan Tillis
EducationChattanooga State Community College
University of Maryland University College (BA)
WebsiteSenate website

Thomas Roland Tillis[1] (born August 30, 1960) is an American politician who has served as the junior United States Senator for North Carolina since 2015. A Republican, he served as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives from 2014 until his election to the United States Senate. He is seeking re-election to the United States Senate in 2020.[2]

In 2006, Tillis was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives representing the 98th district, and in 2011 he was elected Speaker. In 2014, Tillis won election to the United States Senate after defeating Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in the general election. Senator Tillis has earned a 77.71% Lifetime Score from the American Conservative Union.

Early life and education

Tillis was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Margie and Thomas Raymond Tillis, a boat draftsman.[3] He was the oldest boy among six children with three older sisters. His family moved around 20 times when he was in school, and Tillis never attended the same school in back-to-back years, living in New Orleans and Nashville, among other places.[4]

Following his 1978 graduation from high school, Tillis left home to get a job, telling The Charlotte Observer that he and his siblings "weren't wired to go to college."[5] He would eventually go back to school, attending Chattanooga State Community College and receiving a bachelor's degree in technology management from the University of Maryland University College in 1997.[4][5]

Business career and local politics (1980–2003)

Tillis's first major job after high school was at Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co in Chattanooga, Tennessee, helping computerize records in conjunction with Wang Laboratories, a computer company in Boston. Wang eventually hired Tillis to work in their Boston office. He spent two and a half years there, before being transferred back to Chattanooga, and then Atlanta. In 1990, he was recruited to work for accounting and consulting firm PriceWaterhouse. His client was Charlotte's NationsBank Corp, which in 1998 became Bank of America Corp. In 1998, Tillis moved his wife and two children from Fairfax, Virginia to Cornelius, North Carolina, a northern suburb of Charlotte, saying he was "sick of commuting".[4]

PricewaterhouseCoopers sold its consulting arm to IBM in 2002; Tillis retained the title of "partner" when joining IBM, as did many PricewaterhouseCoopers consulting partners, although such a position had not previously existed at IBM.[6] Tillis began his political career in 2002 in Cornelius, where he lived, as he pushed for a local bike trail and was elected to the town's park board. He ran for town commissioner in 2003 and tied for second place in the voting.[4]

North Carolina House of Representatives

State Rep. Tillis (2011)
State Rep. Tillis (2011)

After a two-year term as town commissioner, Tillis ran for the General Assembly in 2006. He defeated incumbent John W. Rhodes in the Republican primary, and went on to win the election, since no other candidate had filed in the general election.[5] Tillis ran unopposed in three subsequent reelection bids, in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Tillis formally left IBM in 2009.[4] He was campaign chairman for the House Republican Caucus in 2010. In that year's elections, Republicans won a majority in the House for the first time in almost 20 years. The House Republican Caucus selected Tillis to be the next Speaker over Paul Stam.[7] When the legislative session opened on January 26, 2011, he was elected the fifth Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House in the state's history.[8]

In May 2011, Governing magazine named Tillis one of 17 "GOP Legislators to Watch" selected on the basis of such perceived qualities as leadership, ambition, and political potential.[9] In the 2012 elections, the Republican Party added nine seats to its majority, winning 77 of the 120 House seats.[10] In January 2013, Tillis was unanimously re-elected Speaker of the House by the Republican Caucus. The state house overseen by Tillis enacted a complete restructuring of the state's tax code, including a reduction of personal and business income taxes, elimination of the estate tax, and a cap on the gas tax.[11] It passed legislation to sunset existing state rules and regulations and limit new regulations to a ten-year duration, unless renewed by the state government.[12] Under Tillis's leadership, the state house also passed voter-identification legislation that was struck down by a federal appeals court for unconstitutionally "target[ing] African Americans with almost surgical precision."[13]

U.S. Senate

Committee assignments

2014 election

In keeping with an earlier promise that he would serve only four terms (eight years) in the state house, Tillis announced that he would not run for re-election to the legislature again.[14] Instead, he chose to run for U.S. Senate in the 2014 election against first-term incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. In Tillis's Republican primary bid, he received endorsements from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush,[15] then-North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory,[16] and former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.[17] Tillis's primary candidacy was also endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.[18]

During his primary election campaign, Tillis skipped four candidate forums in an effort to avoid lesser known rivals in the crowded primary, and in attempt to cement his image as the "inevitable nominee". However, he participated in several televised debates with the four major Republican primary candidates.[19][20] According to the National Journal, Tillis was criticized during the Republican primary campaign for raising money for his Senate campaign from groups lobbying the state house, which is allowed because he is running for federal office.[21][22]

In the Republican primary election on May 6, 2014, Tillis captured the Republican nomination for his U.S. Senate candidacy by a comfortable margin – 45.68% to his nearest challenger's 27.15%.[23][24]

Tillis was announced the winner of the close 2014 Senate race at approximately 11:30 PM on November 4, 2014. Tillis carried 48.82 percent of the vote, the lowest winning total in North Carolina history for a U.S. Senate candidate.[25][26]

During the campaign, Tillis paid $30,000 to Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm.[27] The North Carolina Republican Party paid the firm $150,000 during the campaign.[27] Cambridge Analytica touted its role in the Tillis 2014 campaign on its website and listed the race as a case study.[27] Tillis paid $25,000 to Cambridge Analytica in 2015.[28] In March 2018, Facebook banned Cambridge Analytica following reports that the firm had illicitly obtained information about Facebook users.[28] Questions were raised as to whether the Tillis campaign benefitted from Cambridge Analytica's illicit activities and whether Cambridge Analytica's role in the 2014 Senate race was important enough to swing the close election.[28][27][29]

2020 election

Political positions

As of November 20, 2019, Tillis has voted with President Donald Trump's stated positions 92.7% of the time.[30]


Following Trump's cancellation of Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") executive order, Tillis announced his intention to propose legislation to allow illegal immigrants, who arrived before January 1, 2012 and are under the age of 16 ("Dreamers"), legal status and allow them to remain in the US for five years with a pathway to citizenship. The proposal would grant high school graduates without a serious criminal record conditional immigration status for a five-year period. During that time, if they earn a higher-education degree, serve in the military or stay employed, they could apply for permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship. About 2.5 million DREAMers would be eligible.[31]

In March 2019, Tillis said about Trump's national emergency declaration, "I cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress. As a conservative, I cannot endorse a precedent that I know future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies that will erode economic and individual freedoms." Tillis faced pressure from Trump and other conservatives to support the national emergency declaration, with conservatives floating the idea of a primary challenge against Tillis in 2020.[32][33] In a reversal that surprised many in its timing and scope, Tillis voted the following week in favor of Trump’s national emergency declaration on the creation of a southern border wall, which allows Trump to allocate funding from Department of Defense construction funds to the southern border wall.[34]


In 2014, Tillis said that climate change is not a fact,[35] and in 2015, voted against an amendment that said human activity is a contributor.[36] In 2018, Tillis said that human activity was a contributing factor to climate change.[37]

In 2017, Tillis was one of 22 senators to sign a letter[38] to President Donald Trump urging the President to have the United States withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

In February 2019, in response to reports of the EPA intending to decide against setting drinking water limits for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as part of an upcoming national strategy to manage the aforementioned class of chemicals, Tillis was one of twenty senators to sign a letter to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler calling on the agency "to develop enforceable federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, as well as institute immediate actions to protect the public from contamination from additional per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)."[39]


Tillis has an "A+" rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA). In 2014, the NRA endorsed him for his senate run.[40] As of 2017, Tillis was the fourth most funded recipient by the NRA, totaling $4,418,012 in donations.[41]

In response to the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, Tillis voted for two Republican-backed bills, neither which passed the senate. One bill would have expanded background checks and the other would have delayed gun sales for 72 hours for individuals on the terrorist watchlist while they were investigated by federal authorities. He also rejected two Democratic-sponsored bills, including the Feinstein Amendment which would have banned any individual on the terrorist watchlist from purchasing a gun and a second that would have required background checks at gun shows and during online sales.[42]

LGBT rights

In 2012, then-Speaker Tillis supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as occurring between one man and one woman. This measure ultimately passed.[43] Following the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage, Tillis announced that he would oppose the ruling in his role as Speaker. This stance was relatively unique among major elected North Carolina Republican officials at the time, as even then-Governor Pat McCrory accepted the ruling.[44]

In 2015, shortly after his inauguration to the Senate, Tillis voted in favor of an amendment to a non-binding resolution that would allow same-sex married couples living in states that don't recognize same-sex marriage to have access to government resources.[45][46] The possible contradiction between this vote and his earlier stances have led some to criticize Tillis as being both "for and against" same sex marriage.[47]

Net neutrality

Tillis opposes net neutrality.[48]


In January 2018, Tillis was one of thirty-six Republican senators to sign a letter to Trump requesting he preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement by modernizing it for the economy of the 21st Century.[49]

Foreign policy

In October 2017, Tillis condemned the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and called for a stronger response to the crisis.[50]

Tillis criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's wide-ranging purges of political opponents following a failed July 2016 coup in Turkey.[51]

Personal life

Tillis, and his wife Susan, currently live in Cornelius, North Carolina, and have two children, Lindsay and Ryan. Tillis had previously been twice married to and divorced from a girlfriend from high school.[52] Tillis' brother, Rick, is a state representative in Tennessee.[53]

On May 17, 2017, while participating in a three-mile race at Anacostia Park in Washington D.C., Tillis collapsed and was taken to an area hospital by ambulance.[54] He had become overheated and dehydrated. Tillis was released from the hospital the same day.[55]

Electoral history

NC House of Representatives Primary Election
Year Republican Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct
2006 John W. Rhodes 1,061 37% Thom Tillis 1,805 63%
NC House of Representatives General Election[56]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct
2006 No Candidate Thom Tillis 14,479 100%
2008 No Candidate Thom Tillis 38,875 100%
2010 No Candidate Thom Tillis 23,540 100%
2012 No Candidate Thom Tillis 27,971 100%
2014 North Carolina U.S. Senate Republican primary election
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Thom Tillis 223,174 45.68%
Republican Greg Brannon 132,630 27.15%
Republican Mark Harris 85,727 17.55%
Republican Heather Grant 22,971 4.70%
Republican Jim Snyder 9,414 1.93%
Republican Ted Alexander 9,258 1.89%
Republican Alex Lee Bradshaw 3,528 0.72%
Republican Edward Kryn 1,853 0.38%
2014 North Carolina U.S. Senate election[57]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Thom Tillis 1,423,259 48.82% Increase 4.64
Democratic Kay Hagan 1,377,651 47.26% Decrease 5.39
Libertarian Sean Haugh 109,100 3.74% Increase 0.62
Other Write-ins 5,271 0.18% Increase 0.14
Majority 45,608 1.56%
Turnout 2,915,281
Republican gain from Democratic Swing Increase 5.0


  1. ^ "MULTIPLE Thomas R. Tillises". News & Observer. Archived from the original on 2012-04-01.
  2. ^ "Sen. Tillis: "I'm very confident" winning possible primary". AP News. 9 December 2019. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  3. ^ Greg Lacour (October 17, 2013). "Thom Tillis Is the Strategist". Charlotte Magazine. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Edward Martin. "House speaker Thom Tillis is North Carolina's most focused free-market legislative leader in a long time — maybe ever". Business North Carolina. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Morrill, Jim (February 2, 2011). "The rise of Thom Tillis". The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte, NC. Archived from the original on May 11, 2014. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  6. ^ Mark Binker Tillis Fact check,; retrieved October 23, 2015.
  7. ^ WRAL (2010-11-20). "N.C. Republicans choose leaders ::". Retrieved 2017-07-25.
  8. ^ "GOP-led legislature begins with budget, maps ahead". WRAL/Associated Press. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  9. ^ Jacobson, Lewis (May 24, 2011). "GOP Legislators to Watch". Governing. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  10. ^ "2012 General Election Results, Summary". NC State Board of Elections.
  11. ^ "McCrory, legislative leaders announce tax deal". Charlotte July 15, 2013. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  12. ^ Matthew Burns (February 12, 2013). "'Thoughtful, methodical' regulatory reform planned". Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  13. ^ N.C. State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory, 11 (4th Circuit Court of Appeals 2016). Text
  14. ^ Renee Bindewald (March 22, 2014). "Henderson County Republican Convention". Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  15. ^ Joseph, Cameron (2014-04-30). "Report: Jeb Bush to endorse Tillis in North Carolina". The Hill. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  16. ^ Frank, John (2014-04-29). "Gov. McCrory endorses Thom Tillis for US Senate". NewsObserver. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  17. ^ Sean Sullivan. "Romney endorses Tillis on eve of North Carolina primary". Washington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  18. ^ Philip Elliott. "US Chamber of Commerce Backs Tillis in NC Race". ABC News. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  19. ^ Cameron Joseph (May 12, 2014). "NC conservatives wonder: Where's Tillis?". Roll Call. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  20. ^ Frank, John (2014-04-14). "Thom Tillis to skip major GOP primary debate". NewsObserver. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  21. ^ Sarah Mimms (May 12, 2014). "NRSC Visits N.C. in Search for Hagan Challenger". National Journal. Archived from the original on June 5, 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  22. ^ Frank, John (May 4, 2014). "Thom Tillis campaign money overlaps with legislative, super PAC interests". NewsObserver. Archived from the original on April 8, 2014. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  23. ^ "Thom Tillis captures GOP Senate nomination in North Carolina". CBS News. May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  24. ^ "NCSBE Election Results". May 22, 2014. Archived from the original on December 31, 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  25. ^ "Tillis' 48.87 percent is lowest winning total in North Carolina history". News and Record. December 12, 2014. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  26. ^ "11/04/2014 Official General Election Results – Statewide". NC Board of Elections. November 4, 2014. Archived from the original on January 27, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
  27. ^ a b c d WRAL. "Tillis may have benefited from Facebook data breach". Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  28. ^ a b c "Tillis and NC Republicans paid $345,000 to the data firm that's now banned from Facebook". newsobserver. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  29. ^ weekend (2018-03-20). "Tillis, NCGOP scrutinized for ties to Facebook data breach firm". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  30. ^ "Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump: Thom Tillis". FiveThirtyEight. ABC News. 2019-10-10. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  31. ^ "N.C. senator tosses Trump a conservative life raft for Dreamers".
  32. ^ "Tillis reverses course, votes to support Trump on national emergency declaration". newsobserver. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  33. ^ "Tillis changes vote, supports Trump on border emergency". The Washington Post. 2019.
  34. ^ "Thom Tillis's remarkable flip-flop on Trump's national emergency and 4 others who also backed off". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  35. ^ Morrill, Jim; Frank, John; Portillo, Ely (April 22, 2014). "Greg Brannon targets Thom Tillis in the first GOP Senate debate". The Charlotte Observer.
  36. ^ Barrett, Mark (January 22, 2015). "Burr, Tillis say climate change is real — but". Citizen Times.
  37. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Thom Tillis speaks on climate change". Spectrum News Charlotte. August 7, 2018.
  38. ^ Inhofe, James. "Senator". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  39. ^ "Senators call on EPA to restrict key drinking water contaminants". The Hill. February 1, 2019.
  40. ^ "Vote Thom Tillis for U.S. Senate in North Carolina". NRA-PVF. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  41. ^ Leonhardt, David; Philbrick, Ian Prasad; Thompson, Stuart A. (4 October 2017). "The Congress Members Receiving the Most N.R.A. Funding". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  42. ^ Fram, Alan; Jalonik, Mary Clare. "A divided Senate answers Orlando with gridlock on gun curbs ::". WRAL. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  43. ^ Topaz, Jonathan (May 7, 2014). "Tillis: For — and against — gay marriage?". Politico. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  44. ^ Firestone, David (October 16, 2014). "10 things to know about Thom Tillis". New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  45. ^ Schoof, Renee. "Tillis and Burr vote for same-sex marriage benefits". The News & Observer. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  46. ^ Johnson, Allen (March 28, 2015). "Tillis: For — and against — gay marriage?". Greensboro News and Record. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  47. ^ Topaz, Jonathan (May 7, 2014). "Tillis: For — and against — gay marriage?". Politico. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  48. ^ Breland, Ali (1 May 2017). "Senate Republicans introduce anti-net neutrality legislation".
  49. ^ Needham, Vicki (January 30, 2018). "Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA". The Hill.
  50. ^ "Sen. Todd Young urges action to end Muslim genocide in Myanmar". IndyStar. October 22, 2017.
  51. ^ "Helsinki Commission Urges Turkish President to Lift State of Emergency". Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
  52. ^ "10 things to know about Thom Tillis". Politico. May 7, 2014. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  53. ^ "A Look at Key Primary Legislative Races in Tennessee". U.S. News and World Report. July 29, 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  54. ^ "North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis collapses during race". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-07-25.
  55. ^ Cioffi, Chris (17 May 2017). "Thom Tillis gets 'clean bill of health,' leaves D.C. hospital after road race collapse". The News & Observer.
  56. ^ "Election Results". Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  57. ^ "NC SBE Election Contest Details". Archived from the original on December 30, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2015.

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Elizabeth Dole
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from North Carolina
(Class 2)

Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Kay Hagan
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from North Carolina
Served alongside: Richard Burr
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
David Perdue
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Joni Ernst
This page was last edited on 20 February 2020, at 02:14
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