Political Notebook: Tillis, Cunningham differ on when to fill SCOTUS vacancy

Published 7:22 am Monday, September 21, 2020

While U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., says the Senate should move forward with filling the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham said the decision should be left to the next president and Senate.

The now-vacant seat belonged to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was known as a pioneer for gender equality and served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years.

Though the Senate did not move forward with a Supreme Court pick from by former President Barack Obama in 2016 following the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and within months of an election, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has said he intends to bring President Donald Trump’s nomination to the floor.

Tillis said in a statement that he supports filling the vacancy.

“Four years ago, a Supreme Court vacancy arose under divided government and a lame-duck president as Americans were choosing his successor. Today, however, President Trump is again facing voters at the ballot box and North Carolinians will ultimately render their judgment on his presidency and how he chooses to fill the vacancy,” Tillis said. “There is a clear choice on the future of the Supreme Court between the well-qualified and conservative jurist President Trump will nominate and I will support, and the liberal activist Joe Biden will nominate and Cal Cunningham will support, who will legislate radical, left-wing policies from the bench.”

Cunningham said North Carolinians are already voting and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.

“They deserve that opportunity to have their voices heard, and then it should be up to the next president and next Senate to fill the vacancy on our court,” Cunningham said in a statement.

Some Republican senators have said they don’t support filling the Supreme Court vacancy before the Nov. 3 election, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.


AARP, national polls project Cunningham has lead over Tillis in U.S. Senate race

In a recent survey among North Carolina voters aged 65 and older, former Vice President Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump 52% to 45%, while U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham leads U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, 48% to 41%.

The survey found support for Social Security and Medicare unifies voters from both parties. The majority — more than 80% — of older voters from both parties said they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who will protect Social Security, strengthen Medicare, lower drug costs and increase protections for nursing homes.

“Candidates who want to win in 2020 must talk about the issues that matter to voters 50 and over — like voting safely from home or in-person, preventing cuts to Social Security and Medicare and lowering prescription drug prices,” said AARP North Carolina Director Michael Olender. “Most importantly, North Carolinians are casting their ballots earlier than ever and candidates need to address their concerns now.”

Other results from the survey show that 16% of voters aged 50 years or older plan to vote by absentee ballot, while 45% plan to vote early in-person. More than half, 55%, of those voters are worried about contracting COVID-19, and 23% know someone who has passed away from it. Additionally, 45% of voters are worried about not being able to retire, while 63% are more worried about contracting the virus than getting a vaccine for it.

The survey also showed 52% of Trump supporters aged 50 and older always wear a mask when out in public, while 92% of Biden supporters aged 50 or older always wear masks.

Benenson Strategy Group and GS Strategy Group conducted 1,600 interviews by phone using voter registration lists. The survey was conducted among likely 2020 voters in North Carolina from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8. The margin of sampling error is 2.5%, with a 95% confidence level.

The latest average of presidential election polls, tracked daily by FiveThirtyEight using all the national polls it can find, currently shows Biden ahead of Trump, 50.3% to 43.5%.

However, the race is much tighter in North Carolina, according to FiveThirtyEight. Polling averages show Biden leads Trump 47.4% to 46.3%.

Additionally, the average among polls focused on the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, compiled since Sept. 11, show Cunningham is ahead of Tillis among both likely voters and registered voters.


Gov. Cooper asks President Trump to include NC in oil drilling moratorium

Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper wrote a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to include the state in the oil drilling moratorium recently announced for South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

“Offshore drilling threatens North Carolina’s coastal economy and environment and offers our state minimal economic benefit. Accepted science tells us that there is little, if any, oil worth drilling off North Carolina’s coast, and the risks of offshore drilling far outweigh the benefits,” Cooper said in the letter.

The letter says Cooper stands with the 45 coastal communities that have adopted resolutions opposing oil drilling off the coast of North Carolina. Cooper said the state’s exclusion from the moratorium jeopardizes tourism, commercial and recreational fishing and the natural resources that fuel the coastal economy, generating over $3 billion annually and supporting more than 30,000 jobs.


EMPAC endorses Gov. Cooper, Jessica Holmes ahead of the election

RALEIGH — EMPAC, the political action committee of the State Employees Association of North Carolina announced on Friday its endorsement of Gov. Roy Cooper for a second term.

Additionally, EMPAC has also endorsed Jessica Holmes for Commissioner of Labor. Holmes, a Democrat, is a member of the Wake County Board of Commissioners and is running against Josh Dobson, a Republican.

In a statement, EMPAC credited Cooper with an eagerness to give state employees a seat at the table and a voice to the state’s working families.

“The unprecedented challenges our state faces demand the strong and steady leadership Gov. Cooper demonstrates,” said state EMPAC committee chair Mark Dearmon. “It is now more important than ever that we have a governor who will remain resolute in the face of adversity and uncertainty.”

The statement also said Cooper’s measured approach to the COVID-19 crisis solidifies EMPAC’s belief that he is the best candidate to lead the state out of the pandemic and protect state workers on the front lines.

EMPAC also called Holmes “a rising star” in state politics, crediting her with vast knowledge of the issues facing working families in the state, particularly state employees.

“Jessica Holmes is the perfect candidate to take over a Department of Labor that has fallen short in its mission of protecting workers in recent years,” Dearmon said. “EMPAC’s interview team was very impressed by her interview and we feel that she is the best person to right the ship given her history of standing up for working families. Jessica Holmes is EMPAC’s choice for Commissioner of Labor.”


NC Chamber names Rep. Harry Warren a 2019- 2020 Jobs Champion

RALEIGH — The N.C. Chamber has named Rep. Harry Warren, R-76, a 2019-2020 Jobs Champion in its annual “How They Voted” report.

“How They Voted” details state legislators’ voting records on bills identified as critical to preserving and enhancing North Carolina’s position in the national race for jobs. Rep. Warren was recognized as a Jobs Champion for voting with the Chamber’s Jobs Agenda at least 80% of the time during the 2019-20 legislative biennium.

“I appreciate the chamber’s recognition of the conservative economic policies that my Republican colleagues and I have supported,” Warren said. “Our focus has been on job creation by making N.C. a business-friendly environment.”

N.C. Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido praised Warren in a statement for following a strong, pro-jobs session in 2019, adding that legislators in 2020 showed an unprecedented level of bipartisanship in supporting the state’s response to COVID-19.

“We are grateful for Rep. Warren’s leadership in helping North Carolina navigate the unique challenges of the pandemic and put us squarely on a path to relaunching our state’s economy,” Salamido said. “We look forward to continuing to work with him to help chart a new course for our state.”

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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