Tillis unveils new $500,000 ad in North Carolina Senate race

Tillis unveils new $500,000 ad in North Carolina Senate race
© Greg Nash

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) MORE (R-N.C.) is out with a new six-figure television ad buy highlighting his working-class background as he ramps up spending ahead of his November reelection bid. 

The ad, titled “Pay Day,” was shared first with The Hill. It features Tillis walking through what appears to be a restaurant kitchen while he reminisces on his experience as a short-order cook who earned his college degree through night classes. 

“Monday afternoon: that’s payday in the restaurant business. I know because that used to be me — a short-order cook,” Tillis says in the 30-second spot. “Instead of college, I went to work, got my degree at night, worked my way up to partner at IBM.”

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“Today, 1 million North Carolinians are out of work, most of them living paycheck to paycheck and forgotten by our politics,” he continues. “I’m Thom Tillis. My job is fighting for your job. That’s exactly what I’ll do.”

Tillis’s campaign is spending $510,000 on the ad spot, which will begin airing on television and digital platforms across the Raleigh and Charlotte media markets Tuesday. The ad buy comes two weeks after the first-term GOP senator dropped $750,000 on another spot highlighting his childhood in a family living “paycheck to paycheck.”

With the latest ad spot, Tillis has now spent more than $1.2 million on general election advertising in the past few weeks alone. He’s among the top targets for Democrats looking to recapture a majority in the Senate in November and the fight for his seat is expected to be among the most expensive of the election cycle.

He’s facing a challenge from former North Carolina state Sen. Cal Cunningham, and so far the two candidates have found themselves running neck and neck. 

A poll fielded late last month by the Republican-leaning Civitas Institute found Tillis leading Cunningham by 2 points in the Tar Heel State, while another survey conducted earlier this month by the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling showed Cunningham ahead by 2 points.

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The money race in North Carolina is also close. Cunningham blew past Tillis in fundraising in the first quarter of 2020, raking in nearly $4.4 million to his GOP opponent’s nearly $2.1 million. But Tillis reported having more-than double the cash-on-hand that Cunningham did at the end of March, with nearly $6.5 million in the bank.

Since Cunningham won his party’s Senate nomination in March, Republicans have sought to cast him as out of touch with working-class North Carolinians, especially at a time when the state and the country at large have struggled with rising unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Sen. Tillis knows that North Carolinians are strong and resilient people who just want to be provided with the freedom and opportunities to work their way up to achieve the American Dream, just like he did,” Tillis’s campaign manager Luke Blanchat said in a statement on Tuesday.

“While liberal Democrats want to cripple our economic recovery with higher taxes and more government control, Senator Tillis is focused on pro-jobs policies that put North Carolinians back to work and empower them to prosper,” he added. 

Both Tillis and Cunningham ceased traditional campaign activities as the pandemic took hold in the U.S. in March, opting instead to hold virtual campaign events and the like. Television advertising may prove crucial to reaching voters, especially at a time when many Americans remain concerned about the lingering threat posed by the coronavirus.

--Updated at 8:04 a.m.