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After Tuesday primaries, Kay Hagan, Thom Tillis to face off in U.S. Senate race

Tillis and Hagan to face off in November

After claiming early leads in Tuesday night’s primaries, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) won the Democratic and Republican nominations, respectively, for the U.S. Senate race this November. 

North Carolina’s seat in the U.S. Senate has been identified as one of the most contested — and expensive — races in the nation, and Tuesday’s primaries saw 13 candidates from three parties vying for nominations. 

But like other midterm races in the state, the nominees for U.S. Senate emerged as clear winners. 

Voting closed at 7:30 p.m., and Hagan won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate by 9 p.m. Tillis made his acceptance speech at 10 p.m. at the Omni Hotel in Charlotte.

"We're all on the same team – a team to beat Kay Hagan," Tillis said in his speech, saying Republican candidate Mark Harris had just called him to congratulate him on the nomination.

"If we want to change Obamacare we have to change our senator. If we want to end our nation's financial crisis we have got to change our senator."

Hagan won her nomination with 77 percent of the vote and Tillis with about 46 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results with all precincts reporting.

From the beginning of the night, Tillis maintained the 40 percent of votes necessary to avoid a runoff. 

"It is a sunrise"

Greg Brannon, who came second in the Republican primaries behind Tillis, had been tied with Tillis in March, according to polling results by left-leaning Public Policy Polling, but stayed about 20 points behind him through the evening.

"I have one thing to say: it is a sunrise," Brannon said during his concession speech at The Architect bar in Raleigh.

Brannon, who drew support from the Tea Party during his candidacy, said his ideas about liberty and restraining the federal government must remain a priority for the Republican Party.

"We know that 30 percent of Republicans agree with that message," he said. "And that will be the message that'll send Ms. Hagan home."

AJ Casavant, a freshman at East Carolina University, started helping out with Brannon's campaign through his fraternity because he was drawn to the candidate's pro-business policies. 

"I really felt like he was the best person for the Senate," Casavant said. 

Casavant said he was shocked by Tillis' recent surge in the polls and credited it to Harris eating away Brannon's support.

Kay Hagan’s press secretary said in an email that Hagan’s campaign did not have a watch party planned in North Carolina, but Hagan released a statement after her nomination. 

“I am honored to serve North Carolina, but I know that this job is about the families working everyday for a better future,” Hagan said in the statement. “I will continue putting them, and North Carolina, first as we continue our work to make all North Carolina families strong and great.”

Elections in the area

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Highlights from other races include Rod Chaney’s victory over Lewis Hannah, Jr., in the Republican primary for an Orange County and Durham seat in the N.C. House of Representatives. Chaney ended the night with 79 percent of the votes.  

“I’m ecstatic. It’s so humbling to be trusted by voters and the people that gave their time and worked for me,” Chaney said at the Orange County Republicans’ watch party at their headquarters in Hillsborough, N.C. 

Incumbent Graig Meyer, D-Orange, ran unopposed in the corresponding Democratic primary. 

In comparison, one of the few narrowly contested primaries in the state was for District Two's Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives. Former American Idol star Clay Aiken won 40.8 percent of the vote to Keith Crisco’s 39.5 percent. 

Jenny Surane, Jane Wester, Bradley Saacks and Kathryn Trogdon contributed reporting.

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