2020 North Carolina Senate Candidate Guide

Cal Cunningham (Democrat)
Cal Cunningham (Democrat)
Thom Tillis (Republican - Incumbent)
Thom Tillis (Republican - Incumbent)

See Guides.vote for more online guides with links and sources. Volunteer at calfornc.com or thomtillis.com. Download a PDF version of this guide.

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT – Support Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare?

Cunningham – Yes. “Strengthen and extend coverage under the ACA.” Wants North Carolina to expand Medicaid.

Tillis – No. Voted to repeal ACA. Calls it “a failed health care plan.” Would protect pre-existing conditions, but with no lifetime cost cap.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE – Require political ads to disclose their largest funders?

Cunningham – Yes. Supports HR1 and wants to eliminate “dark money” donations from anonymous donors. Overturn Citizens United decision.

Tillis – No position found.

CLIMATE CHANGE – Consider human-caused climate change a serious threat? Support government action?

Cunningham – Yes. “One of the most urgent issues facing us.” State has “seen the effects of climate change firsthand through the historic storms and flooding.”  Supports efforts to move to 100% renewable energy by 2050, rejoin Paris Agreement and train workers for green jobs.

Tillis – Mixed. Previously doubted human role and supported Trump withdrawal from Paris climate agreement. Now sees climate change as solvable with “responsible market-driven solutions.”  Supported Trump rule easing emission limits on coal-fired power plants.

COURTS—SUPREME COURT – Pick Ruth Bader Ginsburg replacement now or let November winner choose? See CEEP Supreme Court guide.

Cunningham – Wait. “Sen. Tillis supported that very idea in 2016. He trusted and wanted to hear from the American people in 2016. He doesn’t today. Rather than act as a check and balance, Senator Tillis has written a blank check.”

Tillis – Confirm now. Obama “was on his way out the door… President Trump deserves to send forth a nominee and I intend to hear them in (the) Judiciary Committee and then move for passage on the floor.”

COVID-19 – Support administration’s response to coronavirus pandemic?

Cunningham – No. Administration “was caught flat-footed and continues to botch [its] response.” Needed more protective equipment.

Tillis – Yes. “I applaud President Trump for declaring a national emergency to combat the coronavirus.”

COVID-19 Economic Response –Best economic response to coronavirus pandemic?

Cunningham – Service and infrastructure projects to “put people to work,” support for rural hospitals, more unemployment benefits, aid to farmers and greater oversight of federal response.

Tillis – A “Cold War-style approach” to punish China for its virus response. End federal regulations to make it easier for businesses.

EDUCATION – Use public funding for private schools?

Cunningham – No. Supports phasing out school vouchers to pay for private-school tuition.

Tillis – Yes. Supports vouchers for students to attend private schools with government assistance.

ENVIRONMENT – Tighten or loosen environmental regulations?

Cunningham – Tighten. As a state senator, supported a Clean Smokestacks Act, requiring coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon emissions.

Tillis – Loosen. Supports Trump EPA head Andrew Wheeler’s attempts to loosen regulations as needless red tape. Environmental groups have criticized Wheeler’s actions.

FINANCIAL REGULATION – Tighten or loosen regulation of banks and credit card companies?

Cunningham – Tighten. Early backer of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Address “tax loopholes … that benefit corporations and the wealthy.”

Tillis – Loosen. Voted in favor of rolling back Dodd-Frank banking regulations. Says the CFPB needs more “oversight from Congress.”

GUN LAWS – Enact more restrictive legislation on firearms?

Cunningham – Yes. Wants to “expand background checks, ban high-capacity magazines, pass red-flag laws and fund gun-violence research.”

Tillis – No. Supports promoting Second Amendment rights. Co-sponsored bill to allow concealed- handgun carry across state lines.

IMMIGRATION – Create path to citizenship for “DACA” residents brought as children to U.S?

Cunningham – Yes. Calls for “comprehensive immigration reform” that “protects DREAMers and provides a fair pathway to citizenship.”

Tillis – Yes, 15-year process paired with increased border security, limits on sponsoring relatives, and revocation of status for any violation.

IMMIGRATION – Support additional border walls.

Cunningham – Mixed. Against Trump diverting funds from military bases for border wall, but wants a mix of “physical barriers, technology and manpower.”

Tillis – Yes. Called Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to extend the wall executive overreach. Later voted for it as giving president tools to “keep America safe.”

IMPEACHMENT – Support U.S. Senate calling witnesses and voting to convict President Trump? Judgment of Trump Presidency.

Cunningham – Yes. Was “appalled the Senate did not hear from witnesses or request documents.” Would “vote to convict” Trump. Considers him bad role model for the next generation.

Tillis – No. Said impeachment “motivated by partisan politics.” Voted “no,” and against allowing witnesses.  “Trump deserves to be defended.”

IRAN – Oppose military attacks on Iran without congressional approval?

Cunningham – Unclear. Sees killing of Iranian general as “high risk.” “Congress needs to reassert its role in conducting military operations.”

Tillis – No. Voted against a bipartisan Senate resolution requiring congressional authorization for military action in Iran.

LABOR – Support “right to work” laws, banning unions from mandating dues for workers they represent?

Cunningham – Mixed. Endorsed by major unions. Calls for a “living wage” and defending workplace protections. In 2014 endorsed state’s unique “right-to-work laws.”

Tillis – Yes. Co-sponsored National Right to Work Act. As state speaker of the House, vowed to keep North Carolina “the least unionized state in the United States.”

LEGAL ABORTION – Keep legal or ban?

Cunningham – Legal. Believes “a woman’s choice is a woman’s right [and] will always defend Roe v. Wade against partisan attacks.”

Tillis – Ban. Signed a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. “I will never stop fighting for the sanctity of life.”

LGBT RIGHTS – Support same-sex marriage and extension of LGBTQ rights?

Cunningham – Yes. Wants to stand “with the LGBTQI community and communities of color in the fight against regressive policies.”

Tillis – Mostly no. In 2012 helped add same-sex- marriage ban to North Carolina constitution.   Supported repeal of “bathroom bill.”

MARIJUANA – Decriminalize or legalize?

Cunningham – Yes. Supports “allowing states to develop own regulation and taxation of cannabis.”

Tillis – No. Opposes marijuana legalization, but backs study of effectiveness for medical use.

MINIMUM WAGE – Raise federal hourly minimum wage above current $7.25?

Cunningham – Yes. Supports “raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and eliminating the subminimum wage.”

Tillis – No recent position found. In 2014 opposed a federal minimum wage, calling it a “defeatist mentality” compared to focusing on jobs.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD – Support Planned Parenthood’s receiving public funds for providing health care?

Cunningham – Yes. “Will strongly oppose partisan efforts in Washington to attack and defund Planned Parenthood.”

Tillis – No. Joined court brief to allow states to prohibit Planned Parenthood receiving funds for non-abortion services.

STUDENT FINANCIAL AID – Reduce cost of college for lower-income individuals? Forgive student debt?

Cunningham – Mostly yes. Wants to lower the cost of college, let students refinance college loans, fix loan forgiveness and expand Pell Grants.  Unclear on forgiving student debt.

Tillis – Unclear. Supported Trump rule making it harder for students to discharge their loans if defrauded by for-profit schools. Joined unanimous vote supporting Minority Serving Institutions. No student debt position found.

TAXES – Support administration’s $1.9 trillion (2017) tax cuts?

Cunningham – No. Overwhelmingly benefits “the largest corporations and the ultra-wealthy while leaving middle-class and poor … behind.”

Tillis – Yes. Called the tax cuts “historic tax reform that will lead to bigger paychecks for hard-working Americans.”

VOTING RIGHTS – Strict ID and other rules to combat possible fraud, even if limiting access?

Cunningham – No. Supports reinstating protections under the Voting Rights Act. Supports automatic and same-day registration and early voting.

Tillis – Yes. Under Speaker Tillis, the N.C. House passed a package of restrictive election rules, later overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals.


Campus Election Engagement Project is a nonpartisan effort to help colleges engage students in elections. Sources include Votesmart.org, FactCheck.org, Politifact.com and candidate statements. Vote411.org and Ballotready.org offer guides to local races.