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Tillis not worried about Trump drag in '18 elections

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis met with farmers and agriculture leaders, including Bert Lemkes, in December. U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis met with farmers and agriculture leaders, including Bert Lemkes, in December.

Don’t put Thom Tillis in the sky-is-falling caucus of the Republican Party.

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The first-term senator who led North Carolina’s hard swing to the right as state House speaker after the Republican landslide of 2010 says his party’s prospects are bright this year thanks to “the best maps in a generation.”

In an interview with the Hendersonville Lightning, Tillis accurately predicted a week before its final passage that “we’ll get tax reform to the president.” He doesn’t run from his across-the-board support of President Trump. And he says the best part of his job are days like Dec. 15, which he spent at Danny McConnell’s farm in Dana and at a lunchtime session with growers and agribusiness leaders to gather information to support his immigration reform bill, which seeks to preserve farm labor. Here’s the Lightning interview:

What did you think of the Alabama Senate election?

Tillis: “I think the people of Alabama spoke. It doesn’t change our agenda and it doesn’t prevent us from fulfilling the promises we made on tax reform and a lot of other things we need to get done.”

How are you doing with Trump these days? Still good with him?

“Actually I’ve been good all along. I think some reporting agency said I voted with him 96 percent of the time. Where we’ve been at odds has probably been on one EPA appointment. I support his agenda. We have different styles but I support the substance of what he’s trying to get done. We’ve supported a lot of regulatory reform issues. I’ve met with him on immigration policy. I’m working on an immigration policy that the president wants, not something that he would oppose. It doesn’t make any sense for us to spend time on something like this and have the president veto. On border security, on immigration policy, on tax policy, on national security there’s no daylight between me and the president. We’ve got a good working relationship.”

You’re not concerned that the tax cut bill blows up the deficit?

“The $1.5 trillion — we see that being paid for through economic activity. We’re only talking about four-tenths of 1 percent incremental growth to pay for that $1.5 trillion. I don’t think it blows up the deficit. I think it’s really funny, for the first time in my lifetime Democrats are actually worried about deficits.”

What do you predict in the 2018 election?

“Best maps that we’ve had in a generation. Ten states that voted for President Trump have Democratic incumbents; (in) five of those states, the people still view President Trump very favorably and he won by double-digit margins. We’ve got a great map for Republicans in 2018. The liberal talking heads that are saying Alabama is like a bellwether for next year don’t really understand what was going on in Alabama. That was a one-off race and three years from now that’s going to be a Republican senator again. I predict that we’ll keep our majority and maybe add a few in 2018 and I’m pretty conservative when it comes to handicapping races and actually pretty accurate, too. Just ask the Democrats what we did in 2010.”

Now that you’ve had the job for four years what’s the best part of being a senator?

“Being out here. Best part of being a senator is when I’m back in the state talking to people that I’m representing up in Washington. Washington’s kind of the price of admission. But being here and getting to a point where you’re actually producing a result” is the most rewarding.”

What’s the worst part?

“Worst part is probably on a personal level being away from my family and my five-week-old first granddaughter, and really just dealing with the news cycle and social media. They put out so much false information. You have to spend so much time explaining things that you should never have to even worry about. In the old days, before social media, you wouldn’t have to spend an hour and a half of your day just talking people off of a ledge on something that’s just patently untrue. But now you do.”

Do you plan to run for re-election in 2020?

“Right now that’s the plan.”

You’re not worried about Trump being an anchor around your neck?

“What you need to do is worry less about somebody that can carry you over the finish line and do things people in North Carolina want you to get done and then you run on that record. … I believe it’s our record in North Carolina that got me elected (in 2014) against all the odds and $118 million spent, the most expensive race in history at the time and in 2020 it’ll be the most expensive race again in history again. But you run on your record, not from it.”