Thom Tillis was the clear victor Tuesday in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, earning nearly 46 percent of the vote and beating out Cary obstetrician Greg Brannon.
Brannon received about 27 percent of the vote.
Tillis, the state House Speaker who ran on his efforts to turn the state more conservative, easily exceeded the 40 percent mark necessary to avoid a July 15 runoff election.
“It’s not the end of the primary; it’s really the beginning of the primary mission – to defeat Kay Hagan and make Harry Reid irrelevant,” Tillis told supporters Tuesday night. “Kay Hagan and Harry Reid are nothing but an echo chamber for President Obama’s worst ideas.”
During the campaign, Brannon tapped into the tea party movement, staking out far-right positions as he emphasized a strict constitutional approach. He received the backing of like-minded Libertarian Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who flew to Charlotte for a rally the day before the election.
Brannon took the stage in Raleigh on Tuesday night to concede. He honored Tillis for a campaign well-fought, saying, “The key is Ms. Hagan must come home.”
He said his campaign made a mark.
“I think Mr. Tillis heard it very clear,” he said. “We have to fight for individual liberties ... in a kind, compassionate way. If we do that, the next 30 to 40 years, again, are that sunrise.”
Tight race for Congressional seat
The battle between Keith Crisco, a moderate, business-friendly Democrat, and former “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken came down to a very slim margin Tuesday night: As the vote-count neared completion, Aiken led by fewer than 400 votes.
The 2nd Congressional District includes much of western Wake County. The winner will face U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a two-term Republican incumbent from Dunn, who handily defeated GOP challenger Frank Roche, a former radio talk-show host and economist who lives in Cary.
At 11:30 p.m., Aiken took to the stage to thank his supporters and say he was confident that he would be in the race in November. Crisco said earlier in the evening that the race was too close to call and didn’t comment further.
Aiken, 35, of Cary was generally regarded favorably – if unexpectedly – in formal appearances and meet-and-greets, where his ability to articulate issues quickly proved his candidacy wasn’t a whim by an entertainer looking for something interesting to do. Like Crisco, he was also born and raised in the state.
Crisco, 71, of Asheboro is more closely tied to the state’s Democratic Party establishment. He served as Commerce secretary in Gov. Bev Perdue’s administration, and spent time on the local school board and City Council in Randolph County. He was raised on a farm in Stanly County.
Cleary wins in District 13
Brenda Cleary of Cary was the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary for the 13th Congressional District, which includes parts of western Wake County.
Cleary beat out Virginia Conlon and Arunava (Ron) Sanyal to earn 70 percent of the vote.
During the campaign, Cleary, 62, highlighted her experience examining national issues. She worked for three years as a director of the AARP Public Policy Institute, which delves into everything from health care to transportation.
Cleary ran the N.C. Center for Nursing, a nursing workforce development office, for 14 years. She said she can put her policy experience to good use in Congress.
“I want to be a force for good,” she said. “We can’t stand too many more years of this gridlock.”
She will face incumbent U.S. Rep. George Holding in the general election.