CORNELIUS, N.C. -- Long before North Carolina’s Speaker of the House Thom Tillis began preparing a successful run for U.S. Senate he was a member of the Parks and Recreation advisory board in the town of Cornelius.
“Originally I simply wanted a mountain bike trail built and now we're headed to Washington,” said Tillis, who returned to Cornelius Wednesday to address questions from the media about his victory over incumbent Senator Kay Hagan.
“This is kind of back to the future,” said Tillis. “This is the first place I actually served in public office.”
Tillis went from a town commissioner to a state representative at a time when Republicans were in the minority in Raleigh.
“For half my tenure I was in the minority and it gives you a different perspective of what you need to do to be successful,” said Tillis. “That's why I will absolutely have a priority on building relationships with members of my caucus but also members of the minority caucus.”
Tillis says he campaigned on a vow to repeal Obamacare. While he said he would vote in favor of repeal he doesn’t think the bill will be signed by the president. Tillis said he will focus on improvements to the health care system that will benefit the millions of people struggling with changes to their health care plan due to the Affordable Health Care Act.
“We need to restructure things so we get some stability back with those 250 million Americans and fix the problems for 30 million people that have a problem that we should help them solve,” said Tillis.
Speaking of solving problems, Tillis said rather than pushing for new legislation he believes there are plenty of bipartisan bills that have already passed the House that hit a wall in the Democratically-controlled Senate. Tillis said among the dozens of bills in limbo there are sensible solutions for the economy, jobs bills and support for a major pipeline.
“I want to come back here next year and talk about things we accomplished for the good of the nation,” said Tillis.
Tillis also wants to put a nasty year of attack ads behind him. He said he’d like to like more control over the messages sent to voters by third party organizations through political ads but doesn’t necessarily support spending limits on those organizations.
Tillis would also like to see more transparency regarding who is contributing money to super PACs.
“I think it’s interesting that some of the organizations that apparently supported us through third party involvement know I've staked myself out on positions that are at odds with them in some cases,” said Tillis.
Tillis used negative ads to his advantage as well. In the race against Hagan he criticized her allegiance to President Obama. When asked about how he would break party lines during his time in Washington he said he doesn’t support reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank and also does not fall in line with many other Republicans on immigration.
“I’m not for amnesty,” said Tillis. “If the Gang of Eight legislation had come before me I wouldn’t have voted for it.”
But Tillis said he’s not headed to Washington looking for fights.
“I don't want this to be two years of partisanship,” said Tillis. “We've seen that for the past several years. That's why I decided to run.”