NC Sen. Tillis Seeks 5 TV Debates With Democratic Opponent

Jan 15, 2020

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis on Wednesday proposed holding five televised debates with the Democratic nominee, starting this spring.

At least one Democratic primary candidate, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, said immediately he “is ready to debate Thom Tillis in the general election” but didn't specifically accept the incumbent's schedule.

Tillis, who is seeking a second term, said cable channel Spectrum News already has agreed to host three debates in April, May and June. Tillis' campaign also had been talking with the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters about holding TV debates in September and October, the campaign said in a news release.

Tillis said the race's importance makes it critical that voters have numerous opportunities to hear directly from the candidates. “I hope whoever my Democratic opponent is will join me in participating in this robust debate schedule,” he said.

In response to Tillis' proposal, Cunningham tweeted through his campaign Twitter handle: “Bring it on, Thom." The campaign also pointed to tweets saying he would participate in upcoming candidate forums leading to the primary and asked whether Tillis would do the same with his primary rivals.

Five Democrats and four Republicans are competing in the March 3 primary.

Rachel Petri, a Cunningham campaign spokeswoman, said Wednesday the campaign had not been contacted so far by Spectrum News or Tillis' representatives about the specific schedule Tillis proposed.

Another leading Democratic candidate, state Sen. Erica Smith, didn't immediately respond to a message Wednesday seeking comment on the proposal.

Tillis and Cunningham have been the top fundraisers so far in the Senate race.

Tillis' campaign said Tillis would be willing to debate the two Democratic finalists in April should the Democratic primary go to a runoff.