State House Speaker Thom Tillis defeated a crowded field of candidates in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate last night. Tillis received about 46 percent of the vote thereby avoiding the possibility of a runoff.
The mood was joyful last night at Thom Tillis’s victory party in Charlotte. Tillis smiled from ear to ear as he addressed his supporters with his wife, Susan, nearby:
"It’s unbelievable. Susan and I have been excited about the results we’ve seen coming across North Carolina. Y’all excited?"
With his solid margin of victory, Tillis was able to overcome the possibility of a runoff. He needed to get more than 40 percent of the primary vote, which he did. Now he is set to face Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan in the fall- in what polls have suggested will be a close race.
"Just think about how excited we’ll all be when we’re seeing those results in November," said Tillis.
Tillis thanked the other candidates in the race, inviting them to work together toward achieving the goals of his campaign:
"It’s not the end of the primary, it’s really the beginning of our primary mission, which has been our mission all along. And that is to beat Kay Hagan, and to make Harry Reid irrelevant in American democracy."
Not far away from Tillis’s victory party, Baptist pastor Mark Harris conceded to the state Speaker of the House. Harris told his supporters that he and his family will be backing Thom Tillis the same way they play wiffle ball with each other at the beach.
"And one thing you’ll learn about Harris’, when we play, we play to win, and we play hard, and we give it our best, but at the end of the game, we were always still family. And I said Mr. Speaker, that’s what we’re going to be as we go to this fall, because we must bring Kay Hagan home," said Harris.
Harris could afford to be gracious to Tillis. In polls conducted before the primary, he trailed both Tillis and the Tea Party favorite, Greg Brannon.
But at Brannon’s election night gathering in Raleigh, the mood was subdued. The Cary obstetrician congratulated Tillis on his win, saying it was hard fought. And then he reminded his supporters about the Tea Party principles that were the focus of his campaign.
"The only legitimate role of government is to protect the individual inalienable rights," said Brannon.
"That message will never go away. I’m not even sure what percentage we had. Close to 30 percent of Republicans said that was the message. I think Mr. Tillis heard it very clear. I hope he articulates that because that is the message that will send Ms. Hagan home."
But in the audience, Brannon’s supporters said it was hard to have their hopes dashed. Earlier in the campaign, polls showed Tillis might not get enough support to avoid a runoff. That could have made Brannon a real contender. Brannon supporter Karen Reagan said she was very disappointed:
"I mean Hagan’s gotta go, I want her gone, but did I want Tillis to be the one to take her down, he’s just more of the same. He’s a get along to go along guy and I don’t need that."
Reagan says she will vote for Tillis, but without the enthusiasm she had for Greg Brannon.