CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - He’s in the middle of one of the most contested Senate races in the country as Republicans battle to keep control of the upper chamber. And he’s been a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and an advocate to bring the 2020 Republican National Convention to Charlotte.
But U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., will be a no-show Monday when Trump stops at the Charlotte Convention Center to thank the 336 RNC delegates meeting there for nominating him to a second term.
Tillis will be in Charlotte on Monday, his campaign said. But he scheduled another event at noon — the same time Trump is expected to greet the delegates at the scaled-back Charlotte portion of this week’s GOP convention.
Why is Tillis not joining Trump and the delegates?
“Senator Tillis has no role in the official business occurring at the convention tomorrow,” his spokesman Andrew Romeo said in a statement Sunday. “So he will instead spend the day at a small business contrasting his support for the Paycheck Protection Program and the need to extend it with (Democratic opponent) Cal Cunningham’s hypocritical criticisms of the PPP.”
Tillis’ campaign has charged that Cunningham criticized the PPP, a federal loan program, even though his former company, WasteZero, got a loan. Cunningham has said he called for fixes to the PPP, and that he left WasteZero before Trump signed the program into law in late March.
Besides missing Trump in Charlotte, Tillis is not on the list of speakers for the televised portions of the Republican National Convention, which will run Monday through Thursday nights.
Six GOP senators will get TV time, including U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. But only one of them — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa — is involved in a competitive race like Tillis’s.
Though the national Democratic Party is helping former N.C. Sen. Cunningham in his bid to unseat Tillis, Cunningham did not get a speaking slot at the Democrats’ virtual convention last week.
Three North Carolinians will speak during GOP convention week. Eleventh District congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn and Clarence Henderson, a civil rights pioneer who participated in the Greensboro sit-ins in 1960, will speak Wednesday night. And evangelist Franklin Graham, a Trump supporter who leads the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, will be on the Thursday night roster.
Though the Charlotte portion of the RNC will last only a few hours Monday, it is still considered a “high-risk” event during this pandemic, with delegates — six from each state and U.S. territory — from all over the country. If Tillis were going to attend the convention in Charlotte, he would presumably be subject to sweeping coronavirus protocols to screen for the infection.