06/17/2014 11:12 am ET Updated Jun 17, 2014

Thom Tillis: GOP Must Appeal To Minorities Because 'Traditional' Voting Population Isn't Growing

A Republican nominee in a high-profile race that could determine the balance of power in the Senate differentiated between what he called "traditional" voting populations and African-American and Hispanic ones in an interview two years ago.

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), who is attempting to unseat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), said in an interview with the Carolina Business Review in 2012 that he thinks the Republican Party must "do a better job" communicating its message and learn how to "resonate" with minority voters given the state's fast-growing Hispanic population.

When Tillis was asked what he thought of Hispanics not supporting his party, he said demographic changes were an issue Republicans would have to grapple with.

"If you take a look, you mentioned the Hispanic population -- the African American population, there's a number of things that our party stands for that they embrace," Tillis said. He then explained that unlike Hispanic or black populations, which have been growing, the "traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable."

Tillis' campaign said he was merely referring to North Carolinians who have been in the state for multiple generations.

"'Traditional' North Carolinians refers to North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations," Tillis campaign Communications Director Daniel Keylin told Talking Points Memo in a piece published Tuesday. "A lot of the state's recent population growth is from people who move from other states to live, work, and settle down in North Carolina. Thom Tillis for example."

Democrats affiliated with Hagan said that Tillis' comments weren't surprising, given his past rhetoric.

“This is offensive, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from Speaker Tillis as he forces his ‘divide and conquer’ strategy on North Carolina,” Ben Ray, a spokesman for Forward North Carolina, said in a statement Monday. “North Carolinians deserve better than Thom Tillis’ growing record of divisive rhetoric and dangerous policies.”

Watch the interview here. The exchange starts at 2:45.



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