Tillis Claims Victory In Senate Race
Republican Thom Tillis is leading Democrat Cal Cunningham in North Carolina's Senate race by 96,000 votes and 1.8 percentage points.
At a party at Langtree Plantation in Iredell County, Tillis declared victory. He told a crowd of about 100 people he was waiting to hear from Cunningham, presumably a concession.
"I’m sorry it took so much time," he said. "We were holding up a little bit to hear from my opponent but we decided to come over and talk to you all."
But with more than 100,000 outstanding absentee by-mail ballots that could possibly be returned, Cunningham did not make that call. So Tillis went ahead with his speech.
"What we accomplished tonight was a stunning victory," he said. "And we did it, and we did it against all the odds, right? Have we heard this before? You are down in the polls and there is no chance of winning."
Tillis was referring to his first win six years ago, against Democrat Kay Hagan. And in this race, he was consistently behind Cunningham in the polls, often by sizeable margins.
The race isn’t completely over, however.
The state Board of Elections has reported returns from all precincts across North Carolina.
But there are 117,000 absentee mail ballots that were sent out that haven’t been returned.
And here is what we know about those 117,000 people. They didn’t vote in early in-person voting that ended Saturday, but it’s possible they voted on Election Day. And it’s possible some or many of those voters may never return their mail ballots.
Those ballots must still be postmarked by Election Day, but they can be still counted so long as they arrive by Nov. 12.
But Tillis thanked his supporters for "letting everybody know that the truth still matters … letting everyone know that character still matters."
Tillis was talking about Cunningham’s statement in early October that he was "deeply sorry for the hurt" he had caused in his personal life. That apology came after it was reported that Cunningham had an extramarital affair this summer with a California public relations strategist.
That October surprise came at the same moment that Tillis announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
But Tillis recovered quickly. He was in the Senate to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. He then returned to the campaign trail, where he attacked Cunningham relentlessly over the alleged affair.
Cunningham’s campaign went underground. He stopped announcing his events to the press. At an unannounced campaign stop UNC Charlotte on Saturday, Cunningham said he was "speaking directly to the people."
The Cunningham-Tillis race may be the most expensive Senate race ever, with roughly $220 million spent on TV and digital ads.
Tillis said the ads unfairly portrayed him as someone who cared only about the wealthy.
"You know, they were trying to paint me as some guy who just cares about the rich," he said. "I don’t worry about the rich. God bless them for being rich. What I worry about are the people who grew up like me. When you grew up in a trailer park - and move seven times before you are 16 - how could anybody forget where they come from?"
Now both sides will monitor how many mail ballots began arriving at county elections offices.
While Tillis leads Cunningham by 96,000 votes, President Trump’s lead in North Carolina over Biden is smaller, at 76,000.