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Voters across North Carolina “chose a Democratic former state legislator and Iraq War veteran” in Cal Cunningham Tuesday, setting up the general election contest between him and Thom Tillis “in a race that could decide which party controls the chamber.”
Fox 8’s Shannon Smith reported on Cal’s “clear plan to win the Senate seat” from Lexington this morning, where Cal will kick off his “Carolina Conversations” tour, carrying out his pledge to travel places Democrats don’t always go.
In his victory speech, Cal laid out the stakes of the race. As the News & Observer put it, “Cunningham wants to keep the focus on health care — including Republican challenges to the Affordable Care Act, and funds that were diverted from North Carolina military bases to fund construction of a wall on the southern border with Mexico — while painting Tillis as part of a corrupt Washington.”
That’s because Cal is focused on listening to North Carolinians and fighting for their priorities in the U.S. Senate:
“In the push and pull of Washington politics, Thom Tillis has decided there are things more important than representing North Carolina,” Cunningham said at a party for Democrats on Tuesday night. “He has put his own political interests, and serving the special interests, ahead of North Carolina’s interests.”
Read more below about Cal’s decisive victory Tuesday night and read the campaign’s State of the Race memo here.
News & Observer: Cunningham and Tillis win, setting up NC as a battleground for control of Senate
Former N.C. state Sen. Cal Cunningham defeated state Sen. Erica Smith in the Democratic primary election for U.S. Senate and will face incumbent Republican Thom Tillis in a race that could decide which party controls the chamber.
“Cal has served his country and his state for his entire career and we know that he will be an independent voice for North Carolina who will never stop fighting for our military families, better health care, and stronger public schools,” said North Carolina Democratic Party chairman Wayne Goodwin in a statement.
The race is expected to be tight — and closely watched by outside observers. Tillis won the seat in 2014 by less than 46,000 votes and 1.5%. Politico calls the race a toss-up, as does Inside Elections. Cunningham led Tillis 48% to 43% in a recent NBC News/Marist poll.
“Cal’s focus on taking on the corruption in Washington, expanding access to high-quality affordable health care, and standing up for veterans and military families will continue to show a clear contrast with a vulnerable incumbent,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, chair of the DSCC.
AP: Cunningham wins Senate primary, Forest earns GOP gov’s nod
North Carolina primary voters on Tuesday chose a Democratic former state legislator and Iraq War veteran to challenge Republican Sen. Thom Tillis this fall and the GOP lieutenant governor to try to unseat Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
Unaffiliated voter Bob De Andrade, 64, of Durham, said he voted Tuesday for Cunningham because he believes he would stand up to Donald Trump or whoever is president.
“I thought he was offering the change I’d like to see,” said De Andrade, a tour bus driver. “He’s not accepting the status quo of allowing the president to run roughshod over the institutions.”
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Roll Call: Democrat Cunningham wins Senate primary to take on Tillis in North Carolina
Army veteran and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham sailed through the North Carolina Democratic Senate primary Tuesday, setting up what is certain to be a closely watched race in November against vulnerable Republican incumbent Thom Tillis.
Tillis started off the campaign as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the Senate. His position improved in December when retired businessman Garland Tucker, who had been largely funding his own challenge, dropped out of the Republican primary.
WRAL: Tillis to face Cunningham in NC’s US Senate race
Cunningham and the other Democrats have bashed Trump’s tax cuts, saying they have benefited corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of others. They also have criticized his decision to pull out of an international deal to combat climate change and repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“In the push and pull of Washington politics, Thom Tillis has decided there are things more important than representing North Carolina. He has put his own political interests, and serving the special interests, ahead of North Carolina’s interests,” Cunningham said Tuesday night. “The fact of the matter is, Washington has broken Thom Tillis. He’s too weak to stand up to his partisan friends and corporate backers, even when it is wrong for our state.”
Triad City Beat: NC Democrats Manning and Cunningham win big in Super Tuesday races
In the US Senate race, Cal Cunningham called his victory much earlier in the night, when he shared a tweet by the Associated Press that declared him the winner at around 8:45 p.m. on Facebook.
“Thank you, North Carolina. I am honored to be your Democratic nominee for US Senate,” Cunningham wrote.
Prior to the election, the Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer, noted that Cunningham was the safer bet to beat Tillis in November.
“For primary voters who are concerned more with choosing a candidate most equipped to beat Tillis,” the editorial panel said, “Cunningham offers the clearest path forward. His more moderate positions on issues such as healthcare will appeal to the persuadable voters that Democrats need for a repeat of the 2018 blue wave, and Tillis surely would prefer to spend the summer telling those center-to-right North Carolinians about Smith’s Medicare for All support and advocacy of marijuana legalization.”
In an interview with Triad City Beat last month, Cunningham said that he would strengthen the Affordable Care Act if elected and would invest in a clean energy economy to create good-paying jobs. He also had a direct message for both Mitch McConnell and Thom Tillis during a February candidate forum in Charlotte.
“We are coming for you,” he said.
WTVD: Cal Cunningham to challenge Sen. Thom Tillis in U.S. Senate race in North Carolina
Democrats picked Cal Cunningham as the party’s Senate nominee on Tuesday.
“We are one step closer to replacing Thom Tillis in the United States Senate. We are one step closer to replacing his partisanship with our patriotism,” Cunningham said in a speech to supporters Tuesday.
NC Policy Watch: Biden surges to victory in NC; Cunningham to face Tillis in Senate race
Cunningham took a commanding lead early on Tuesday and ended up with 57% of the vote.
In a victory speech Tuesday night Cunningham, an Army reservist, referred to the oath he took to serve his country.
“My word, the same word I gave when I took that oath, is I will always listen first,” Cunningham said. “I will always honor your North Carolina story first and I will take that story to Washington, D.C. to be your champion too.”
Cunningham characterized his general election campaign as one for all North Carolinians, signaling he wants to appeal to voters all along the political spectrum – whether they voted for another Democrat in Tuesday’s primary or even if they voted Republican.
“It’s okay if we don’t agree on all of the issues,” Cunningham said.
“I’m going to go places that haven’t seen a candidate and certainly haven’t seen a Democrat and talk to people who don’t always agree,” Cunningham said. “Because that’s what it means to be a United States Senator in this great democracy.”
Vox: This North Carolina Democrat will try to unseat Thom Tillis this fall
Cal Cunningham, an army veteran and former state senator, will take on Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in what’s expected to be an extremely competitive North Carolina Senate race this fall.
Cunningham called out Tillis for supporting President Donald Trump’s efforts to shift $80 million from the state’s military bases to fund his border wall, and his backing for offshore drilling along the North Carolina coast, among other actions.
Cunningham is one of several candidates running in pivotal swing states this November. Democrats have long eyed North Carolina, Maine, Arizona, and Colorado as part of their bid to retake the Senate this fall — and the race in the Tar Heel State is expected to be close.
“North Carolina is probably a must-win for Democrats to retake the Senate,” Kyle Kondik, editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, tells Vox. “The race appears highly competitive, as Senate races in the state often are.”