NORTH CAROLINA
     Nov. 3, 2020 Senate                                      

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+Thom Tillis (R) i
2,665,598
48.69%
Cal Cunningham (D)
2,569,965
46.94%
Shannon Bray (L)
171,571
3.13%
Kevin Hayes (C)
67,818
1.24%

5,474,952

Registration:  Dem. 2,626,740 (35.64%)   Rep. 2,233,542 (30.30%)   Unaff. 2,456,123 (33.32%)   Lib. 46,509 (0.63%)  Const. 4,668   Grn. 3,647  Total 7,371,229.
Ballots cast:  5,545,848.
Plurality:  95,633 votes (1.75 percentage points).
NC State Board of Elections




Notes: 
Democrats saw the North Carolina seat as a top prospect for a pickup and a key piece in their effort to regain control of the Senate but Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham proved to be a flawed candidate and Sen. Thom Tillis (R) won a second term.  This was the third most expensive Senate race of the cycle (after the two Georgia races)—spending by the campaigns and outside groups totaled $295.8 million.  A lot was happening in North Carolina politics; in addition to the Senate race there were intense campaigns for president, governor and judicial positions as well as three open U.S. House seats. 

Cunningham, an attorney, served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves including in Iraq and Afghanistan; he also served one term in the state Senate but did not run for re-election due to redistricting.  In 2010 he ran in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, finishing second.  In the Mar. 3, 2020 primary he defeated state Sen. Erica D. Smith by 717,941 votes (56.9%) to 438,969 (34.8%), with the remainder going to three other candidates.  Tillis easily won the Mar. 3 Republican primary, garnering 78.1% of the vote against three other candidates.


Tillis and Cunningham engaged in debates on Sept. 14, Sept. 22 and Oct. 1.   These were earlier than in many states as North Carolina was the first state to send out ballots; on Sept. 4 officials began sending absentee by mail ballots to registered voters who had requested them.  For the Sept. 14 debate, hosted by WCNC-TV Charlotte, Tillis, Cunningham and the moderator were in studio, with the candidates standing at podiums 12 feet apart (>).  In the Sept. 22 debate, hosted by CBS 17 in Raleigh, the two candidates and three moderators were in studio (>).  The two candidates met for a final time on Oct. 1 in Raleigh for a debate hosted by Spectrum News 1.

Cunningham seemed in a fairly good position, but on the evening of Oct. 1 NationalFile.com reported that he, although married with two children, had sexted with a married woman from California.  The campaign confirmed the report the next day and the damage was done.  On the evening Oct. 2, there was another notable development as Sen. Tillis announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would self-isolate at home for 10 days. 

In the final tally, Tillis won by just 1.75 percentage points.  Despite being excluded from the debates, the Libertarian nominee Shannon Bray, a Navy veteran working in information technology, achieved a relatively strong showing of 3.13%.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, this race had the highest proportion of spending by outside groups compared to the campaigns themselves.  Of the $295.8 million in total spending, the campaigns accounted for $76.1 million and outside groups for $219.7 million
.  For the campaigns, Cunningham outspent the Tillis  by 2:1, $51.1 million to $25.0 million.  For outside groups, spending was more balanced, $119.5 million on the Democratic side and $100.2 million on the Republican side.  Top groups on the Republican side were the Senate Leadership Fund ($47.2 million), American Crossroads ($23.8 million) and Americans for Prosperity Action ($12.2 million), and on the Democratic side the Senate Majority PAC ($35.8 million), Carolina Blue ($4.5 million), Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund ($3.9 million) and Patients for Affordable Drugs Action ($3.7 million) (>).


Campaign Managers:
Thom Tillis  Luke Blanchat
(Jan. 2019)  State deputy director (Jan. 2018-2019) and economic development director (Jan.-Dec. 2017) to Sen. Tillis.  Director of political operations on the Richard Burr Committee, Jan.-Dec. 2016.  Special advisor to Sen. Tillis, Jan.-Dec. 2015.  Deputy campaign manager on the Thom Tillis Committee, June 2013-Nov. 2014.  Political director on McCaul for Congress (TX), Feb.-Nov. 2012.  Campaign advance (Nov. 2011-Feb. 2012) and finance associate (Aug.-Nov. 2011) on RickPerry.org Inc.  B.S. in finance from Virginia Tech, 2011.  From Hickory, NC.

Cal Cunningham  Devan Barber
(Aug. 2019)  Deputy executive director (Jan.-July 2019) and political director (Nov. 2017-Dec. 2018) at the DSCC.  Political director (July-Nov. 2017) and director of polling and strategy (Feb.-July 2017) at End Citizens United.  Research director (May 2016-Jan. 2017) and deputy research director (Feb. 2015-May 2016) at the DSCC.  Research director on Kay Hagan for U.S. Senate (NC), Dec. 2012-Nov. 2014.  Researcher for Sen. Kay Hagan, Dec. 2012-Dec. 2013.  Senior research associate (July 2011-Nov. 2012) and research associate (Mar. 2010-June 2011) at the DNC.   Legislative correspondence manager (Feb.-Mar. 2010), legislative correspondent (Jan.-Feb. 2010) and research assistant (May-Nov. 2008) for Sen. Kay Hagan.  B.A. in government and women's studies from William & Mary, 2008.





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