RALEIGH — Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan urged her Republican challenger Wednesday to apologize for comments he made two years ago on a television show when discussing GOP efforts to attract voters from minority groups.
Hagan said House Speaker Thom Tillis was wrong to separate black and Hispanic North Carolina residents from what he called the “traditional population of North Carolina” and the U.S.
“As an elected official, Speaker Tillis sets the wrong example by classifying some North Carolinians as traditional and implying others are not, and he should apologize for this offensive comment immediately,” she said in a release.
Tillis, the GOP nominee facing Hagan in November, isn’t apologizing for the comments, which resurfaced Tuesday in a report on the Talking Points Memo political website. Campaign manager Jordan Shaw said Tillis believes North Carolina Republicans need a message that resonates with all residents.
Tillis “believes the philosophy of growth and hard work and freedom has appeal to people across North Carolina, whether they are natives of the state or newcomers and regardless of their demographics,” Shaw said in an email. Hagan said Tillis was dismissing North Carolina as being a diverse state.
Tillis’ comments, made on the Carolina Business Review show on public television, responded to a question about the Republican Party’s future. The interviewer asked about the shift of Hispanic voters to the Democrats. Tillis’ answer referred to Latinos and the black population.
“We need a focus on limited government and free markets, which is something that’s appealing to everybody,” Tillis said on the show. “That kind of work will position us for those growing sectors. The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing,” he said. “The African-American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population and the other immigrant populations are growing in significant numbers. We’ve got to resonate with those future voters.”
Tillis’ campaign also defended Tillis’ remarks by citing news outlets in which reporters referred to efforts by Democratic or civil rights groups to attract “non-traditional voters” and counter “traditional voters” to win elections.