Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is expected to run for president in 2016, put his support behind state House Speaker Thom Tillis on Saturday during the state GOP convention held in Cherokee. Gwen Albers/Carolina Public Press

At NC GOP convention, Republican leaders line up support

CHEROKEE — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says he worries about America’s future.

With one-third of 18- to 34-year-olds still living with their parents and only 23 percent planning to vote, the 2008 presidential candidate believes he has reason.

Mike Huckabee is one of several national Republicans to visit Western North Carolina last weekend to throw their support behind Republican NC Senate candidate Thom Tillis. Gwen Albers/Carolina Public Press
Mike Huckabee was one of several leading national Republicans to visit Western North Carolina during the state GOP convention, held for the first time in Cherokee. Gwen Albers/Carolina Public Press

“Up until this generation, every generation believed they lived better than their parents,” Huckabee told a full house during a Saturday dinner at the three-day North Carolina Republican Convention at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. It was the first time the state’s GOP had come to this Western North Carolina location to rally party faithfuls and to refine the party’s statewide political platform.

“This is the first generation in which parents don’t believe their children will live better than they did, and the children believe it too,” said the host of the Fox TV news channel talk show “Huckabee.” “We have to change the attitude, but it will not change until we get people who get back to the bedrock fundamentals.”

In hopes of the GOP take over the majority in the U.S. Senate in 2015, Huckabee endorsed North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis.

The Mecklenburg County businessman won the May primary and will challenge Democrat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in November. The outcome of the fall election could tip the partisan majority and control of the U.S. Senate for the last two years of Obama’s presidential term.

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“To turn around the economy, we need to get rid of (Democrat Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reed,” Huckabee said. “I’m grateful the people of North Carolina are coming together for united support and will not vote to allow Harry Reed to continue and let Washington be a roach motel, where they go in, but nothing, nothing ever comes out of there.”

Also showing support for Tillis were former primary Senate candidates Heather Grant, Mark Harris, Jim Snyder and Ted Alexander. All joined Tillis on stage when he made his acceptance speech.

Accompanied by his wife, Susan, Tillis said he looks forward to being in the U.S. Senate and sending Reed to “the back of the room.”

“We are working hard to defeat Kay Hagan because she has failed the people of North Carolina and people of the United States” he said. “Our $12 trillion debt is now approaching $18 trillion. Obamacare is a program that cannot be paid for, and the war on coal and war on energy will drive up the energy prices on the poorest people in the nation.”

He noted that for six years Hagan has voted with Obama 95 percent of the time.

“They have had it their way the last six years,” Tillis said. “Now it’s time to have it our way. “

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also endorsed Tillis during his luncheon appearance at the convention.

“There are so many reasons we should work hard for him this fall,” said Jindal, who is expected to run for president in 2016. “He’s done such a great job here and he will do a great job there. It also will mean we can retire Harry Reed as majority leader. If no other reason, we have to work hard, which is why this election is so important.”

Born in Baton Rouge to immigrants from India, Jindal spoke about his father. One of nine children, his dad was the only one to earn an education past the fifth grade. He grew up in a home without running water and electricity.

“I bet you everyone here has a story like that, but here’s what’s amazing about my dad’s story,” Jindal said. “My dad takes his pregnant wife, moves halfway across the word so she could attend LSU. They knew nobody, but my dad had this unshakeable fate. (He believed) ‘if I can get there, if I want to work hard….’ He believed in the American dream from half a world away.”

A graduate of Brown University and a Rhodes Scholar, Jindal was the second Indian American in Congress, elected in 2006.

Since being elected governor in 2007, Jindal said he has cut 28,000 government jobs and Louisiana has the lowest unemployment rate in the South. Teacher pay has been increased, and parents choose their children’s schools; 90 percent of the children in New Orleans are in charter schools, he said.

“There are millions of children in America trapped in failing schools,” Jindal noted. “If we want to grow the economy and reduce incarceration, it has to start with education.”

“In Louisiana, we fought hard to put a great teacher in every classroom,” he continued. “One study shows a fourth grade girl with a great teacher is more likely to go to college and less likely to become a pregnant teenager.”

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory also endorsed Tillis and spoke about new jobs coming to the state.

“I promised when I became governor, we will fight for jobs in North Carolina,” McCrory said. “Yesterday we announced 550 jobs for Cisco.”

North Carolina beat out Georgia and Texas for the jobs by offering grants totaling $13 million to Cisco over the next 12 years. The jobs will focus on finance and technology with an average salary $73,000 a year.

“We are selling North Carolina for jobs,” McCrory said. “Every week, we are announcing new jobs for North Carolina. We’re recruiting and retaining.”

He attributed the state’s success to folks like Tillis, who helped lower the corporate income tax.

“This is why industry is starting to come back,” McCrory said. “North Carolina is getting more business friendly and more affordable. Just a year ago, North Carolina had the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country. Two weeks ago, we’re not even in the top 35. For first time in eight years, North Carolina is below the national average.”

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Gwen Albers is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press. Contact her at galbers_reporter@yahoo.com.

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