Democrats and Republicans are saying the same thing tonight but in starkly different tones:
Republicans: “Thom Tillis is our next senator!”
Democrats: “Thom … Tillis .. is … our … next … senator.”
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, soon-to-be former state lawmaker Tillis is leading Kay Hagan by 48,197 votes. Barring a miracle—like a box full of Hagan ballots washing up on Topsail Beach—Tillis is going to Washington, where he’ll join a Republican majority in the Senate.
This race received national attention—and big loads of cash. Spending on the race exceeded $111 million—$80 million of it from outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Predictably, Hagan won the major urban counties of Wake, Durham, Guilford, Forsyth, Mecklenburg and New Hanover. She also did well in progressive areas such as Orange, Chatham and Buncombe counties, plus Cumberland, home of Fort Bragg, and many southern and northeastern counties, according to the N.C. Board of Elections.
Tillis’ strength was in the rural areas, particularly down east and in most of the mountain and foothills counties. (That red blotch on the map in the swath of blue from Forsyth to Wake? Alamance County.)
Sean Haugh, the Libertarian candidate, could have made the difference, although it’s unclear whether Tillis or Hagan was affected more.
According to the NC Board of Elections county map, Haugh pulled in between 4–6 percent of the vote in counties that went for Tillis. But in most of the counties that Hagan won, he garnered just 1-3 percent of the vote. The exceptions were Jackson, Hyde and Bladen, all Hagan counties where 5-6 percent of the vote went to Haugh.
Haugh received 108,183 votes, and there are 25,655 registered Libertarians in the state. Even if every registered Libertarian voted for Haugh, that leaves 81,764 voters—Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated—who couldn’t stand either Hagan or Tillis.
And don’t forget the write-in candidates: There were 5,186 ballots cast for them.