Establishment favorite Thom Tillis’s win in the North Carolina Republican Senate primary Tuesday night actually indicates the Tea Party has won the war with the establishment, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) argued on Wednesday.
Wasserman Schultz said that Tillis "is no longer, if he ever was, an establishment candidate,” having been pulled to the right during his time as speaker of the North Carolina House.
“As the Speaker of the House, he has presided over some of the most extreme right-wing policies that have ever been enacted by a legislature. He has taken positions by being forced to the right — and I’m assuming he’s done that willingly. He certainly seems to have gleefully have engaged in some of the policies he’s put forwards,” she added.
Tillis easily defeated a handful of other candidates for the nomination on Tuesday night in a contest that was seen as the first outright establishment versus grassroots battle this cycle.
His main competition for the nomination, pastor Mark Harris and physician Greg Brannon, had received support from various Tea Party actors, and it was unclear heading into election night whether Tillis would overcome the 40 percent vote threshold he needed to avoid a costly runoff.
But establishment Republicans largely saw him as the most viable general election contender against Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) in a state that’s a top pickup opportunity for Republicans, and two establishment groups alone poured $2.5 million into the race to boost his candidacy.
Democrats have dismissed him as too extreme, pointing to his record as speaker of the North Carolina House, during which he pushed for cuts to education funding and restrictions on birth control, as evidence.
Wasserman Schultz repeated those charges on Wednesday.
“That’s what I think is going to continue to cause Republicans problems in winning elections, because they are taking positions that are out of step with mainstream voters — particularly independents, who are going to ultimately decide the outcome of these elections,” she said.