“We’re going to work together to keep this Carolina comeback alive,” Gov. Pat McCrory told the crowd after the election was called.
Tillis took the stage to chants of “USA” and “Only in America.”
“We overcame a lot of adversity, and here we are with the opportunity to make America be great,” he told his supporters.
Tillis campaigned largely on his success as speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives and also ran dozens of ads linking Hagan to what he called the failed policies of President Barack Obama.
“I care about the future of our country. I’m extremely passionate about that. Thom has the ability to turn our country around,” said Ellie Hooper, a member of the Appalachian State University College Republicans.
Tillis thanked his campaign for helping drive voters of all ages to the polls.
“We had so many volunteers calling and knocking on doors,” he said. “Y’all refused to lose and that’s why I’m standing here.”
Dallas Woodhouse, the president of Carolina Rising, a right-leaning citizen engagement organization, said he was surprised Tillis had won while Republican Scott Brown, a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts, had lost his Senate race in New Hampshire.
“I think ultimately, ironically, the Democrats successfully turned this race into a referendum against the Republican legislature and governor’s policies, like tax cuts, education reform and unemployment insurance reform,” Woodhouse said.
“They’re going to lose that referendum.”
Sarah Bullins, a member of the N.C. State University College Republicans, said she was excited to have Tillis represent the state in Washington, D.C.
“Thom was very successful as speaker of the house so I think he will do an even better job in Washington as our senator. He’s a great guy — just an all around great guy,” Bullins said.
Asheville resident John Miller said he supported Tillis because he agrees with Tillis’s commitment to fiscal responsibility.
“He has done a lot for small businesses, lowering taxes to encourage them to come back. He also recruited some clean industries to come to the area,” Miller said.
Hooper added that Tillis’s commitment to turning around the economy is especially important for college students.
“I think a huge issue for college students is just for us to know that when you get out of college, you can find a job and that you’re going to be able to be successful,” she said. “It’s huge to make sure that our economy is strong.”
Elizabeth Wright, a Tillis campaign intern from Davidson College, said she believes Tillis worked to bolster the economy during his time as speaker when he worked with McCrory to implement programs and create new jobs rather than extend unemployment benefits.
McCrory said voter turnout was at a record high Tuesday. More than 2.8 million voters cast ballots in the Senate race.
“We had a record turnout in North Carolina because we pass laws that allow working men and women to vote after work,” McCrory said.
Tillis said he wants to free the American people from unnecessary government restrictions.
“The only way government can provide you with something is to take it away from someone else,” he said.