Thom Tillis is projected to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in North Carolina, defeating physician Greg Brannon and pastor Mark Harris in Tuesday's primary. The speaker of the state house, Tillis is projected to have won more than 45 percent of the vote, safely overcoming the 40 percent threshold to avoid a runoff with the second-place finisher, Brannon (who is currently at 27 percent).
Tillis had the backing of outside groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, while Brannon received support from endorsement by several Tea Party and libertarian organizations as well as an eleventh-hour appearance from Kentucky senator Rand Paul. That wasn't enough to get Brannon into the runoff, and it wasn't helpful when it surfaced that the doctor was being sued for misleading investors.
With the GOP nomination in hand, Tillis moves on to face incumbent Democratic senator Kay Hagan in the general election. Hagan won her seat in 2008, defeating the unpopular Republican Elizabeth Dole in the same year Barack Obama won North Carolina. But in 2010, the state's seemingly Democratic tilt shifted toward the Republicans as the GOP took several House seats, and won the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. Two years later, Obama lost North Carolina to Mitt Romney.
The race between Hagan and Tillis may be one of the most closely watched of the 2014 midterms. Hagan has supported Obamacare as well cap and trade and the stimulus. Tillis is strongly associated with the state house's conservative majority.
Meanwhile, incumbent House members Renee Ellmers and Walter B. Jones, Republicans both, survived primary challenges. Jones, an anti-war social conservative, won a tight race against former George W. Bush aide Taylor Griffin.