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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Time for Republicans to Unite to K-O Kay in North Carolina



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Time for Republicans to United to K-O Kay in North Carolina

Tuesday’s primary elections offered one big, somewhat surprising result:

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, who had full-fledged support from the state and national Republican establishment, beat back challengers favored by tea party activists and Christian conservatives to win the right Tuesday to take on Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November.

With percent of the precincts reporting, Tillis, who lives in Huntersville, received about 45 percent of the vote. He needed 40 percent to avoid a July 15 runoff that would have forced him to spend precious time and money that he’ll now get to spend trying to unseat Hagan.

Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary, whose campaign was propelled by the tea party, finished second with 27 percent. And the Rev. Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte and a champion of socially conservative issues, was third at 17.5 percent.

The usual suspects will argue that this result is one more sign of the decline of the Tea Party. But this continues the chaotic classification system, in which all a candidate needs to be considered the “Tea Party” candidate in the narrative is to say, “Hi, I’m the Tea Party candidate.” Tillis is hardly a squish, and 59 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters felt positively about Tillis; 24 percent felt unfavorably.

A more accurate interpretation is that “Establishment” candidates — read, those who have actually been elected to office before — are getting better at adapting to a political environment shaped by “Tea Party” supporters and making the case that they will indeed fight for conservative reforms.

In Tillis’ victory speech, delivered in front of an American flag at an uptown Charlotte hotel, he wasted no time in framing the fall campaign as a fight to not only retire Hagan, but also strike a blow against President Barack Obama’s policies and wrest control of the Senate from the Democrats.

“Kay Hagan and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid are nothing but an echo chamber for President Obama’s worst ideas,” Tillis said. “If we want to change the mess of Obamacare, we have to change our senator.”

Good news on the GOP party unity front, from Rand Paul:

Congratulations to Thom Tillis. Now that the primary is over, it is time for our side to unite to defeat the Democrat who cast the deciding vote for ObamaCare, Kay Hagan, in November. I endorse Thom Tillis and look forward to working with him in the Senate. I congratulate my friend Greg Brannon on a well fought race and encourage all the candidates to unite for victory in November.

Oh, by the way, Kay Hagan . . . took 77 percent in the Democratic primary. More than 100,000 North Carolina Democrats voted for one of two other little-known options.

Beyond that, little drama on primary day:

So much for roiling anti-incumbent sentiment. Every House member with a challenge won, most of them pretty comfortably. Only two under 60 percent.

Also make sure to check out Eliana Johnson’s reporting on the race over on the homepage.


Tags: Kay Hagan , Thom Tillis , Greg Brannon


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