Tillis wins second term in U.S. Senate
By Joe Killian
Republican US Sen. Thom Tillis won a second six-year term Tuesday, besting Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in one of the hardest fought and most expensive senate campaigns in American history.
Tillis’s win was a narrow one — 49% to Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham’s 47%, according to unofficial results. Libertarian Shannon Bray garnered about 3% and Constitution Party candidate Kevin Hayes 1%.
Tillis’s victory came in the face of polls that had him as far as 10 points behind Cunningham just days before the election.
“We did it against all odds, right?” Tillis said in a victory speech before supporters late Tuesday. “We’ve heard it before – you’re down in the polls, there’s no chance of winning.”
Tillis said his campaign was about “letting everybody know that the truth still does matter, letting everybody know that character matters and letting everybody know that keeping your promises still matters.”
The race was the most expensive in the nation, with nearly $300 million spent. Tillis was able to unleash a late barrage of negative mailers, text messages and advertisements focusing on an extramarital affair to which Cunningham admitted last month.
Cunningham, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, is facing an investigation for possible violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in relation to the affair, which was with the wife of a fellow veteran. Tillis’s campaign featured that point heavily in advertising over the last month, spotlighting North Carolina veterans questioning Cunningham’s integrity.
In a state heavy with active duty and retired service members, the issue allowed Tillis — who has no record of military service — to turn one of Cunningham’s political strengths against him in the waning days of the race.
Cunningham also refused to answer whether the affair, revealed in a series of text messages, was the only one he had engaged in. In ads, interviews and campaign stump speeches, Tillis also harped on that point. In the last weeks of the race Tillis, despite testing positive for COVID-19 last month, made many public appearances at rallies and get-out-the-vote events while Cunningham was far less visible.
Cunningham, argued North Carolinians cared more about the major political issues at stake in the election than his personal life — including his support for the Affordable Care Act, reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and potential Democratic control of the U.S. Senate. Polling, which showed his lead actually widening after revelation of the affair.
But control of the Senate was a major motivator for Republican voters as well, as Tillis acknowledged in his victory speech Tuesday.
“I don’t really experience stress,” Tillis said. “But I did have a heavy burden on me. North Carolina could be the majority maker for the U.S. Senate. And I told people across the state that they needed to carry that burden. And in the election today they proved to me they were willing to carry that burden all the way to victory tonight. And we need to thank all of them for what they did.”
As the election stretched from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, Tillis said a Republican majority in the Senate seemed secure. As part of that majority, he said, he will concentrate on “killing COVID” and recovering from the economic effects of the pandemic through getting students back in classrooms and businesses re-opened.
NC Dems pick up two seats in the U.S. House
By Clayton Henkel
Heading into Election Day, North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts were represented by 10 Republicans and three Democrats. After Tuesday, the state will be represented by eight Republicans and five Democrats in the 117th Congress.
Returning to the U.S. House of Representatives will be Democrats Reps. G.K. Butterfield (District 1), David Price (District 4) and Alma Adams (District 12); and Republicans Greg Murphy (District 3), Virginia Foxx (District 5), David Rouzer (District 7). Richard Hudson (District 8), Dan Bishop (District 9), Patrick McHenry (District 10), and Ted Budd (District 13).
Beyond the incumbents, the big storyline of the evening in the congressional contests was the pick up of two seats by women.
Democrat and former state Rep. Deborah Ross bested Republican Alan Swain and Libertarian Jeff Matemu to win the 2nd congressional district, a seat previously held by Republican George Holding. Holding did not seek reelection when the district was redrawn last year to favor Democrats.
“We want to get people back to work safely, back to school safely, make sure they have affordable and accessible health care,” Ross told supporters in her victory speech. “We need leadership that leads with compassion and can work across the aisle.”
In the 6th district, attorney Kathy Manning cruised to victory over Republican Lee Haywood. Manning will fill the seat held by Rep. Mark Walker, who did not seek another term.
In flipping the seat for Democrats, Manning focused on affordable health care, education and job training.
In January, Ross and Manning will join incumbent Reps. Adams and Foxx, doubling the number of women who will represent North Carolina in Washington.
Raleigh’s News & Observer reported in October that only six women have ever represented the state in the U.S. House.
Democrat Patricia Timmons-Goodson, the first African-American woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, was locked in a tight contest against incumbent Republican Richard Hudson in the 8th congressional district. Republicans dropped $2 million on that race in the final week of the campaign, and that appears to have given Hudson the momentum to win 53%-47% and retain his seat.
North Carolina will also have the distinction of having the youngest member in Congress in the next session.
The 11th district, a seat previously held by current White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, will be represented by Madison Cawthorn. The 25-year-old defeated Moe Davis, a 62-year-old retired Air Force colonel, 54%-42%.
Cawthorn, who never shied away from controversy during the campaign, took to Twitter after the race was called in his favor to taunt, “Cry more, lib.”