CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Queen City’s local LGBT chamber of commerce says it is “outraged” over the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of North Carolina Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis’ campaign for U.S. Senate. The national chamber, meanwhile, is standing by their candidate.
In a fiery press release on Monday, the Charlotte Business Guild accused the U.S. Chamber of a “blatant disregard” for North Carolina and its various local chambers and affiliates. By choosing Tillis, the group’s president said, the U.S. Chamber has chosen party affiliation over what is best for local and small businesses.
“Tillis has consistently chosen the side of big business and forsaken the small and mid-size business owner through his tenure as Speaker of the House in the NC Legislature,” Charlotte Business Guild President Chad Sevearance said in the statement.
The local group itself doesn’t release endorsements, citing the “polarizing effects that it has on [its] diverse membership and businesses.” Among their members are LGBT-owned businesses and workers.
The group said Tillis has harmed members of the LGBT community and “has maintained a record for taking a hardline against the LGBT community and their endeavors for equality in the workplace, benefits and marriage.”
Sevearance added, “The business owners and professionals in the Charlotte Business Guild live, work, own businesses, pay taxes and go to school here in North Carolina. In the vetting process for this endorsement, none of them were asked how they feel, were they better off now that Tillis has been in charge and does this endorsement meet the needs of their business and success?”
The Charlotte Business Guild wants the U.S. Chamber to review their endorsement and their vetting process. Additionally, they are calling on the national group to “include business owners and professionals from the LGBT community in the conversation.”
The local LGBT chamber is affiliated with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and is a diversity partner of the Charlotte Chamber. The group says it also participates with the state and national chambers.
As speaker of the North Carolina House, Tillis supported anti-LGBT legislation, namely the anti-LGBT marriage amendment passed by 61 percent of voters in 2012.
Calls on Monday and Tuesday to the U.S. Chamber’s press office were unanswered, but the group finally responded early Tuesday afternoon after two email inquiries.
“Thom Tillis has a record of promoting economic growth in North Carolina, and the U.S. Chamber is proud to support his campaign,” U.S. Chamber Executive Director of Media Relations Blair Holmes said simply.
qnotes attempted reaching Tillis spokesperson Jordan Shaw on Monday evening and a Tuesday morning email has not yet been returned.
The U.S. Chamber endorsed Tillis in April, spending at least $450,000 in TV ad buys in the Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte markets this year.
In one ad, the Chamber says “North Carolina has a better way” and calls Tillis a “conservative businessman” who “will fight Washington and the Obama administration.” A second ad features NASCAR legend Richard Petty saying Tillis “will fight for North Carolina families and jobs.”
The U.S. Chamber has spent more than $24.5 million supporting or opposing federal candidates this election cycle, according to research from the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly all of it, some $23.5 million, has been spent on behalf of Republicans.
[Ed. Note — This story was updated Sept. 30, 2014, 1:03 p.m., to include the U.S. Chamber’s response.]