WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - For the first time in several election cycles, Thom Tillis is not running for office. He is in his second year of representing North Carolina in the United States Senate, having defeated incumbent Kay Hagan in 2014 to become the state's junior Senator. The former state House Speaker is watching controversy unfold in his previous place of service, inside the General Assembly with the controversial HB2, the bill passed by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory. The bill overturned an ordinance passed by Charlotte's City Council, and requires transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificates.
"This is something that I think the city (of Charlotte) and state leaders should sit down and try to come up with something that provides reasonable accommodations, but also addresses the fundamental problems that the Charlotte ordinance created," Tillis said in an interview on Tuesday. "They should have done that to begin with. Charlotte probably should have reached out to develop a strategy that would have been well received by Raleigh. But I do think there is some opportunity to work together."
Several lawsuits have been filed on both sides of the HB2 issue, with the Department of Justice taking action against the state, and Gov. Pat McCrory joining legislative leaders in filing against the federal government. It seems likely that the courts will make the decision on HB2 and transgender protections. McCrory has urged Congress to take action, by updating the federal non-discrimination laws to address the issue. Tillis says that will not happen soon.
Tillis has urged members of the GOP to support the party's likely nominee for president, Donald Trump. Although he backed Sen. Marco Rubio early in the primary season, Tillis says he now stands behind Trump, and he sees the billionaire from New York as someone who can unify the party heading into November.
"He's come to Capitol Hill," Tillis said about Trump. "He's met with Congressional leaders in the House and the Senate. He's reaching out to individual senators. He's hiring people that have the kind of depth and expertise that I think he will need to come up with a clear policy vision, and policy proposal. That will better position him for November. "
"Yes, I would, absolutely," Tillis said. "The choice again is an extension of the Obama administration, which I have a number of differences with, or someone who will take a fresh look and more likely engage. Quite honestly I think some of his policies could put anyone outside of their comfort zone, because he is approaching this in a very different way. But I will support him and I'll campaign for him."