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Sen. Tillis disappointed his opponent turned down debate

Opinion from U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC | The people of Western North Carolina are traditionally denied a front-row seat to Senate debates, and that’s a shame. The chance to see the candidates meet on the same stage to discuss their positions on the important issues facing our state should be available for all North Carolinians, not just the ones that live in Raleigh. That is why I was disappointed when my opponent, Cal Cunningham, broke his word and declined an invitation to participate in a debate this week with WLOS-Asheville.

In January, I challenged Cunningham to five general election debates. While he said “bring it on” back then, now he’s saying he will only debate three times — cutting Western North Carolina out of the process.

Why not give voters as many chances as possible to see us discuss the issues face-to-face? Like any politician who is afraid to debate, Cunningham doesn’t want to defend his failed record and agenda. I don’t blame him.

Last time he was in charge during a recession, Cunningham raised your taxes by more than $1 billion, and now he wants to raise your taxes again at the federal level. He opposes tough-on-China trade policies, refuses to blame China for their COVID-19 lies and cover-ups and has no plan to hold them accountable. He will rubber-stamp whatever government takeover of the healthcare system that the DC liberals funding his campaign tell him to.

A vote for Cal Cunningham is a vote for Chuck Schumer and his extreme liberal agenda. It’s a vote to cripple our state’s economic recovery, just like Cunningham did in 2001. If Cunningham honored his word and debated me, I would have reminded the people of western North Carolina that I have a very different vision for our state.

I grew up in a trailer park, started with nothing, and had to scrap for everything that I earned. My family couldn’t afford college, so I went to work in a warehouse in order to put myself through night school, all while raising a family at the same time. While it's wonderful that Cal Cunningham has led a blessed life and had everything handed to him, he can’t possibly understand what North Carolinians are going through in the wake of this pandemic, but I do because I’ve been there.

I know that my job is fighting for the jobs of hardworking North Carolinians and that the path forward for our economic recovery is through the same pro-growth policies that I’ve been championing throughout my time in public service.

As Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, I cut taxes for our hardworking families and slashed regulations on our small business owners. I then went to the U.S. Senate and did it again.

These common-sense policies created seven million jobs, produced record low unemployment for women and minorities, generated record high wage growth for blue-collar workers and paved the way for North Carolina to become one of the fastest-growing states in the nation.

I have a track record of success creating a booming economy and know what it will take to build it back again in the wake of COVID-19, especially for those that need it the most. Cal Cunningham’s only experience presiding over a tough economy is raising taxes, killing jobs and making things worse.

Last fall, news outlets reported that Chuck Schumer directed whoever wanted to run against me to spend their campaign hiding in a windowless basement in order to avoid answering tough questions about their candidacy. It’s unfortunate that Cal Cunningham is refusing to deviate from those marching orders. While he would rather deny Western North Carolina of a much-deserved debate opportunity so he can hide his extreme liberal agenda, I’m proud of my record and my plan for the future. I look forward to coming to western North Carolina and discussing both as much as possible because I will never take you for granted.