North Carolina 2020 Political Profiles: Senator Thom Tillis & Cal Cunningham

Senate elections are being held on November 3. Here’s everything you need to know about North Carolina’s two main candidates. 

General Information

 Thom Tillis is a Republican from Jacksonville, FL. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2006 and has been a senator in NC since 2015. Tillis is married and has two children. He lives in Huntersville, NC. On the 4th of October, Tillis was diagnosed with COVID-19. He is currently self-isolating and has experienced mild symptoms. 

Cal Cunningham is a Democrat who grew up in Lexington, NC. Cunningham served as a state senator from 2001 to 2003. He is a Lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and served three active duty tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He currently resides in Raleigh and is married with two children. On October 5, screenshots of a conversation revealed Cunningham has been sexting with a woman who was not his wife. 


Tillis opposes government run healthcare and supports the repeal of Obamacare. In 2018, he sponsored and introduced the Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act, which would attempt to increase health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions and prevent discrimination based on these conditions. 

Cunningham supports strengthening the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. He has stated that one of his top priorities is making healthcare less expensive. 

LGBTQ Rights 

In 2017, Tillis helped compose and cosponsored a bill that condemned the discrimination of LGBTQ people in Chechnya, a subject of Russia, despite voting in favor of constitutionally redefining marriage as between one woman and one man in 2011 and defending North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban in 2014.

In 2010, Cunningham stated he supported ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the United States military in a senate primary debate. Though the policy was an improvement, the policy made it so that people could not be openly LGBTQ while serving in the military. He also supports passing the Equality Act which would protect LGBTQ people in NC against dicrimination. 

Women’s Rights and Healthcare

Tillis opposes abortion. In 2014, he strongly agreed with the statement “life begins at conception.” He cosponsored the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would have allowed any indiviual that violated the act to be subject to fines, jail time, and put on trial for murder. Tillis also voted in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would make most abortions after 20 weeks pregnant illegal. 

Cunningham is pro-choice. He has stated that he believes “a woman’s choice is a woman’s right” and “there is no place for a politician in a conversation between a woman and her doctor.” In 2010, Cunningham voiced that he believes Roe v. Wade, the supreme court decision that made abortions legal, should be kept intact.

Gun Control 

Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, Tillis said that he believes some gun control legislation should be passed, stating that “there were so many instances of breakdowns in the current process… there were so many ways that tragedy could have been avoided.” Tillis has received donations from the National Rifle Association – a total of $4.5 million was reported in 2018. 

Cunningham has said he supports expanding background checks for people purchasing firearms and banning high-capacity magazines. He supports increased funding for research on gun violence.  Cunningham is the vice chairman of Roy Cooper’s Crime Commission, where he worked on recommendations to cut down the risk of school shootings. 

Supreme Court 

Thom Tillis has said he supports Trump’s nomination for the Supreme Court despite refusing to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s nomination for the Supreme Court, in 2016. Tillis’ reasoning in 2016 was that it was too close to the election to fill the vacancy. Obama nominated Garland over 7 months before the 2016 election; Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett five weeks before the 2020 election. 
Cunningham has stated that it “should be up to the next President and next Senate to fill the vacancy on our Court.” He has criticized Tillis on his alignment with President Trump, saying that he gave a “blank check to the President.

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