'This Victory Is Our Victory,' Tillis Declares
Nearly 3 million ballots were cast – but it all came down to 46,539 votes. That was enough to make Thom Tillis North Carolina’s next U.S. senator. The slim margin was painful for those gathered in Greensboro at Hagan’s election night headquarters. But the margin was irrelevant in an uptown ballroom in uptown where Tillis gave his victory speech.
It was a quarter past midnight when Thom Tillis stood on the stage with a smile so big you could see it from the back of the room.
"I know it’s late, but I’ve got a little bit of energy I’ve been running on right now," he said to loud cheers.
That energy had ebbed and flowed between the campaigns – and their election night headquarters all night before settling in with the Tillis campaign.
"This victory is not my victory. This victory is our victory," Tillis declared.
Early voting returns mirrored the polls which had put Hagan ahead by a percent or so. In Greensboro, where the Hagan camp had set up shop, there was at first optimism. That changed to nervousness, then outright pessimism as her lead faded and disappeared. About an hour before she spoke the outcome was clear.
"Thank you for standing with me during this campaign," Hagan told her supporters. "It’s been a long couple of years, but none of it would have been possible without the long hours so many of you logged, knocking on doors, making all of those phone calls, making sure people all across our state could have their voice heard."
Then she gave her farewell.
"I will always be grateful for the trust you placed in me, and the chance to serve our great state. Y’all, it has been fabulous."
Tillis ended up with 48.8 percent of the vote to Hagan's 47.2 percent. Libertarian Sean Haugh cleared 108,000 votes to end up with 3.7 percent.
The outcome was tough for Hagan supporter Margaret Arbuckle to believe.
"I’m shocked, and I’m very disappointed, and I’m heartbroken that this is what North Carolina thinks is best for it," said said.
But they did. Lindsey Dowling was one of them.
"I want to create jobs. I want to boost up our economy. I think Thom Tillis did a great job as speaker," Dowling said.
Dowling is 27-year-old female, one of the key demographics for the Hagan campaign. All those ads geared toward women just like Dowling. So what would Dowling say to the folks who created all those ads?
"You’re not doing a good job. I really don’t think Kay Hagan is representing us well."
The Hagan-Tillis race set all kinds of records. More than $111 million spent – a national record. The turnout, the highest ever for a mid-term in the state. And, with just shy of 114,000 ads run – that too is a record for a mid-term.
Both sides aired those ads, as did the outside groups that supported each. But on election night, Tillis made it sound like he alone had to weather the negative talking point storm.
“You know, if you take a look at all the negative ads against me and more negative ads than any Senate candidate in the country - $111 million. We didn’t bend! We won!”
But winning is just the start for a politician. Tillis also had this to say about his goals:
"We need to free the American people up to make America great again. We need to free the American people up to make it an economic superpower, a military superpower and an energy superpower. These are the things we’re going to Washington and do."
At times, Tillis’s victory speech didn’t sound like that of just a candidate. It sounded like a victory speech for what is now known as the 2014 Republican wave. And perhaps it should. It wasn’t until after Tillis was projected the winner that some media outlets proclaimed Republicans would indeed take control of the U.S. Senate.