North Carolina tea party pushes back against establishment
Jane Bilello, chairwoman of the Asheville tea party
May 5th, 2014
07:37 PM ET
5 months ago

North Carolina tea party pushes back against establishment

Asheville, North Carolina (CNN) - On the eve of North Carolina primary balloting, the state tea party is not backing down, despite reports the Republican establishment is fighting to "humiliate" and win big.

Will the tea party be humiliated in the primaries?

"The establishment – they want to keep their turf and they look at us as a threat," Jane Bilello, chairman of the Asheville Tea Party, told CNN on Monday.

It's a turf war her group is willing to fight.

While the establishment is putting its money behind U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House, the tea party-affiliated groups have backed ob-gyn Dr. Greg Brannon.

They say he can recite the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and the Declaration of Independence from memory. A third candidate, Baptist pastor Mark Harris, is also running with the backing of Christian conservatives.

"We need fiscal responsibility and we make sure our candidates are committed to that," she said at the Brannon headquarters in Asheville, where the office housed a dozen volunteers making phone calls on his behalf.

The primary race has become a proxy war between the tea party and the entrenched wings of the party. But that's not new, said Bilello, pointing to their uneasy relationship since the modern day tea party's creation in 2009.

"What they seem to forget is that we turned Congress in 2010," Bilello said, referring to the Republican wave that elected 63 Republicans to the House and handing control to the GOP.

The establishment has been burned before, losing primaries to further right candidates that went on to lose against a Democrat in the general election. In North Carolina, the establishment thinks Tillis is the person who can beat Democrat incumbent Kay Hagan in November.

GOP establishment looks nervously at North Carolina Senate primary

Tillis not only has the backing of the Grand Ole' Party but also of big money. Only 4% of contributions to Tillis' campaign are in the form of small contributions compared to 57% of small-dollar contributions to Brannon, according to the Center for Responsible Politics.

Tillis' large-dollar donors have created a war chest totaling $3 million while Brannon has only $206,000 on hand.​

But Bilello said that if Tillis wins, he might not have something he will need in November - her groups' endorsement and perhaps more votes.

"Just because a Republican wins the primary does not mean we endorse them," she said.

While Republican voters usually participate in midterm elections, the party is trying to take control of the Senate and will need every vote possible.

A new CNN poll released Monday gave Republicans a 1-point advantage over Democrats when respondents were asked to choose between a generic Republican candidate and a generic Democratic one.

CNN Poll: GOP advantage in midterms

"A lot of people are disgusted in voting because they feel they no longer have a choice between the two major parties," Bilello said. "People will look at (Tillis) as Mr. Establishment."

CNN's Peter Hamby and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2014 • North Carolina • Tea Party
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. TNPatriot

    Tillis HATES the middle class and just blew out the NC budget. Bilello can recite the constitution from memory, so can bart simpson, but we don't want Bart in DC either, although he would be a good replacement for the speaker.
    The tea party came to life in 2009 when the Koch brothers bankrolled them through their subsidiary freedomworks because they could not stomach a black president. They got it off to a great start, a bunch of buffoons that could be led around like sheep, but the TP ego grew and now the crazy sheep think that they actually matter. Enter 2014 as the Kochs now are using their money to buy every mainstream republican willing to sell their soul for a hefty contribution.

    May 5, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  2. LOYALRIGHT

    A majority of North Carolinian's want Kay Hagan ousted. She has not been good for North Carolina but a puppet for the obama administration. Thom Tillis may be the only candidate that has statewide recognition, although all candidates would make a good Senator . Let's hope whoever wins the primary, he will get the support of the other candidates.

    May 5, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    Republican Party is pretty much gone to dogs even in NC. True.

    May 5, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  4. Rusty Krus

    That woman has the classic deer in the headlights look. Poor, simple lady.

    May 5, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  5. Humbrrto

    Its a crime to influence an election with money from outside the jurisdiction of that state or federal election.

    May 5, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  6. S. B. Stein

    I love this fight that is going on in the Republican party. It shows that they aren't as united as once thought. My question is why didn't these so called "teapublicans" come out earlier?

    May 5, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  7. CALIFORNIA

    I can't wait to watch Harry Reid crap his pants when the nuclear option is used against him and his party.

    May 6, 2014 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  8. Charles Hawkins

    The TEA party exist because the republican party has sold its soul to the angry and intolerent. Now that monster has turned against its master. What exactly are they for? I just hear ranting without a real plan to fix anything.

    May 6, 2014 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  9. Marie MD

    No truer words were spoken about the adelson's and koch brothers of the US.
    "The establishment – they want to keep their turf and they look at us as a threat," Jane Bilello, chairman of the Asheville Tea Party
    Just look at their leaders, a Canadian who thinks he can be a US president, a guy from KY who thinks the Civil Rights might just not have been such a good idea and has his own thoughts of who you should serve in 2014, the bridge gate 4-day clueless governor, sanatorium, the huckster who thinks women want government to pay for their contraceptives (he's probably on Viagra himself) and the oops governor with the racist ranch (I bet CNN doesn't post this because they don't want anyone to remember that ranch). I've tried countless times and they never publish me.

    May 6, 2014 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  10. Tony in Maine

    At first they were funny – the absurdities, the strutting around with misspelled signs, the interpretations of the Constitution made over a kitchen table and a 6 pack – but it's getting old. It's not that I want to see the establishment (anyone with a suit and tie) win, it's that the dullards are pulling the centrists far to the right and that's dangerous.

    Case in point is the State of Maine where a loony tunes governor is dragging a terrified Republican minority in the legislature back to 1914. Lefislation that makes sense but might interfere with an individual's "rights" and (gasp) cost money better sent back to the 1% is vetoed and that veto is sustained by the bobbleheads in one or both houses in Augusta. I was told by one R that he voted against the people because if he didn't he received veiled threats in the mail for a week afterwards.

    So, you've had your fun. You've play acted at acting like adults. Now go out and lean over the back fence and gossip or hang out at the bar and just get sloshed. Please leave all your phallic symbols (guns) at home. Someone might get hurt should a fight break out.

    May 6, 2014 06:35 am at 6:35 am |