As speaker of the state House, Thom Tillis is one of the most powerful politicians in North Carolina. But you wouldn’t know it from the Republican’s first ad in the U.S. Senate race.
“In the private sector, businesses are built on accountability,” Tillis says. “But accountability is a foreign language in Washington.” He goes on to couple Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan with President Barack Obama in the ad titled, “Let’s Clean Up Her Mess.”
Tillis, who was elected to the Legislature in 2006 and became speaker in 2011, makes no mention of his title or his political experience at all. The ad takes place in a corporate office and ends with, “Businessman. Conservative.” written in bold red letters across the screen.
Of course it’s not a surprise, considering that legislation coming out of the North Carolina Legislature has been a rallying point for the Democrats, who hope to keep the electorate focused on Tillis’s voting and leadership record throughout the duration of the Senate race.
But it’s also notable because Tillis isn’t the first speaker to conveniently ignore the résumé item.
Last cycle, even though Democrat John Oceguera, who was challenging Republican Rep. Joe Heck in Nevada’s 3rd District, was finishing a dozen years in the state Assembly and was the sitting speaker, his ad “Champion” completely ignored his political office.
The ad talked about him rising to the position of assistant fire chief and featured a slow-motion walk out of a firehouse with a handful of firefighters, as if they were recreating the opening scene in "Reservoir Dogs."
Tillis isn’t the only candidate this cycle who has been speaker.
Democrat Pat Murphy is running in Iowa’s 1st District, being vacated by Rep. Bruce Braley. Murphy has served more than 20 years in the Iowa House, including a few years as speaker. It’s too early for ads in that race, but Murphy at least mentions his leadership role in the first line of his bio on his campaign website.
In Tillis’s defense, his title is in the third sentence of his bio on his campaign site. It just didn’t happen to make it into the first ad in a campaign that could feature at least a dozen more spots before Election Day.
Mentioning the speakership isn’t necessarily an electoral death sentence. Back in 2008, Oregon Speaker Jeff Merkley noted his leadership role in at least one ad, titled “Burden.” Merkley defeated GOP Sen. Gordon Smith that cycle and is up for re-election this year.