Florida Politicians Take Sides in North Carolina Senate Race

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: June 10, 2014 3:55 AM
Jeb Bush, John Branch, Alex Sink

Jeb Bush, John Branch, Alex Sink

Florida politicians are taking sides in one of the most competitive U.S. Senate races in the nation but also reinforcing the already strong ties between the Sunshine State’s politics and North Carolina. 

During the colonial period and well into the antebellum era, North Carolina never quite emerged as strongly as either of its neighbors, Virginia or South Carolina. Ambitious young men -- James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson, perhaps Andrew Jackson who South Carolina also claims -- headed out of North Carolina, seeking opportunities in other states including Florida. It’s no surprise to see some of the leading figures in 19th century Florida -- John Eaton, James McNair Baker, William Dunn Moseley -- originally from North Carolina. Long before he served as Florida’s last territorial governor, John Branch served as governor of North Carolina and represented the state in the U.S. Senate.

With Republicans pushing to flip the U.S. Senate in November, all eyes are on North Carolina where U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., is a top target.

Former state CFO Alex Sink, who was born in North Carolina and who lost a special congressional election earlier this year, went to bat for Hagan on Friday. Sink, who was the Democratic candidate who came up short against Rick Scott in 2010, sent out an email to supporters on Friday asking them to support Hagan.

“This year we don't have a U.S. Senate race in Florida, but Democratic control of the Senate is at risk,” Sink wrote. “One of the key races is the re-election of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, and I want all of us to do our part to help Kay.

“Kay is a personal friend, growing up in Lakeland and niece of Florida Sen. Lawton Chiles,” Sink added. “Kay graduated with a law degree from Wake Forest and went on to serve as a distinguished North Carolina state senator before running and winning a U.S. Senate seat in 2008. Kay represents common-sense politics that made North Carolina committed to higher education, public schools, and a new economy. We need her back in the Senate!”

Sink teamed up with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to host a fundraiser for Hagan in Tampa on Sunday.

But North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, the Republican candidate challenging Hagan, can also count on support in Florida, including a former governor in his corner. Former Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed Tillis early last month, right before Tillis’ decisive victory in the Republican primary.

“Thom Tillis is a proven conservative leader with an impressive track record of results for North Carolina businesses and families,” said Bush. “His work on key issues like improving education, keeping taxes low and eliminating burdensome regulations is a testament to his leadership as North Carolina’s House speaker. It is critically important that Republicans win a majority in the U.S. Senate, and I am confident that the road to a majority runs through Thom Tillis in North Carolina.”

“I am honored to have the support of Gov. Bush, who I have respected and admired for several years,” said Tillis. “His record in Florida speaks for itself and he is one of the most respected leaders we have in this nation. I look forward to working with him during the course of the campaign as we continue to expand our network of conservatives who want to take back the U.S. Senate.”

With the Hagan-Tillis race expected to be competitive and one of the key races determining the fate of the Senate, other prominent Florida politicians should be heading up to North Carolina in the months to come.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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