- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

SMITHFIELD, N.C. (AP) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged North Carolina conservatives Friday to work to elect Thom Tillis’ to the U.S. Senate, saying his arrival will usher in a Republican majority in the chamber that can force the hand of President Barack Obama to fortify American foreign policy.

Worried over the rise of the Islamic State and the Ebola virus and angry about the government’s response to both, Republicans at what’s billed as “North Carolina’s Largest Political Rally” cheered as Perry, Gov. Pat McCrory and others pressed for a Tillis victory over Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

“We need a United States Senate that will stand up to and clearly send a powerful message to the White House that we are going to put policies into place (so) that our enemies will fear us and our allies will trust us,” Perry said to many of the 5,000 people who attended the traditional election-season event.

Perry also said a Republican majority would have a ripple effect of putting Republican in positions of great responsibility, suggesting that North Carolina senior GOP Sen. Richard Burr could be the next chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In a reference to Obama’s signature health care law, Perry also said Tillis, the state House speaker, knows that “Washington, D.C., cannot unilaterally and wisely decide how to best deliver health care back into North Carolina.”

Tills, if elected, will “do everything he can to dismantle Obamacare,” Perry said to applause. The potential 2016 Republican presidential nominee also talked about the conservative policies in Texas over the past two decades that he says had made the state an economic powerhouse. North Carolina, where state government shifted to Republican leadership in 2010 and 2012, is about five years behind on that conservative arc, he said.

The tight race between Hagan and Tillis is the most expensive race in the country this year, with almost $90 million being spent by the two candidates’ campaign and dozens of outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Tillis already has had other 2016 hopefuls campaigning for him this fall, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. On Saturday, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was slated to be in Charlotte with Hagan.

Burr, who also was in attendance, said no one has been under as much political assault in a U.S. Senate race as Tillis. “If you want to retire Harry Reid, the best way to do it is to retire Kay Hagan this year,” Burr said, referring to the Democratic Senate majority leader.

McCrory and Tillis talked about the accomplishments of the GOP-led North Carolina government over the past two years. While Democrats have pummeled Tillis for his policies at the North Carolina legislature, the governor and speaker portrayed them as ones that got the state on the right track in the recession’s aftermath.

“I want our record in North Carolina to prevail,” Tillis told supporters. “I will not let you down because the future of this great nation … is what’s at stake in this election.”

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