Thom Tillis Beat Cal Cunningham: Here’s What the Senate Race Means

Thom Tillis Beat Cal Cunningham: Here’s What the Senate Race Means

One of the most-watched Senate races in the 2020 election cycle ended Tuesday when Democrat candidate Cal Cunningham conceded to Republican incumbent Thom Tillis in a phone call.

“The voters have spoken and I respect their decision,” Cunningham said in a Twitter statement. “While the results of this election suggest there remain deep political divisions in our state and nation, the more complete story lies in what unites us: our faith and sense of confidence in our democracy, our civic values and common humanity, our shared aspiration to care for one another, and our belief that we live in a country that does exceptional things.”

Tillis claimed victory on election night, but the state had more than 100,000 mail-in ballots to count. The NC Board of Elections on Tuesday afternoon said Tillis led Cunningham by slightly more than 95,000 votes. The elections board’s website also said less than 95,000 absentee ballots were outstanding. Basically, the board determined that any new Cunningham votes wouldn’t have overcome Tillis’s lead.

The elections board’s unofficial results showed late Tuesday afternoon that Tillis received 48.7% of the vote and Cunningham received 46.96% of the vote.

The battle between Tillis and Cunningham was the most expensive Senate race in history. According to an Associated Press story from last week, the two campaigns and outside groups spent around $282 million in total.

The race also went through twists and turns over the last month. Tillis tested positive for Covid-19, and Cunningham admitted to having an extramarital affair. It turns out the latter turned voters away from Cunningham, according to this story from The News & Observer in Raleigh.

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Image courtesy of Harold Mendoza on Unsplash.

What the Senate Result Between Tillis and Cunningham Means for the National Stage

Democrats’ chance of taking a majority in the Senate just got smaller. The party needed to net three seats in this year’s election to take over the majority from the Republicans.

When Cunningham conceded to Tillis, two things happened: a contested seat fell away from Democrats’ reach and the Republicans’ opposition to whatever agenda President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris pursue got stronger.

GovTrack’s ideology scale rates Tillis among the most-conservative members of the Senate. Tillis voted in line with President Donald Trump 93.7% over the past four years, according to FiveThirtyEight’s vote tracker.

On Monday, a FiveThirtyEight analysis said winning seats from North Carolina, Arizona, Maine, and Colorado was the best way for Democrats to take a majority. The party won two of those — Arizona and Colorado.

The Republicans’ victories in North Carolina and Maine moved all eyes to January’s runoff elections in Georgia. Sweeping these races are the only way Democrats can maintain a 50-50 split in the Senate.

If Republicans win one race in Georgia, gridlock in Congress likely is here to stay.

What does it mean for North Carolina?

Tillis acknowledged the difficulty of his campaign and wished Cunningham and his family the best going forward in a short thread posted to his Twitter. Then he laid out the first goal of his second six-year term.

“I know that my job is fighting for the jobs of the hardworking people of our state, which is why my first post-election priority will be defeating COVID-19 and getting the economy back on track,” he posted in a Twitter thread.

Regarding the pandemic: on Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Phase 3 of the state’s reopening will remain in place through at least Dec. 4. The state’s number of COVID-19 cases has been trending upward, and the state’s unemployment rate for September was 7.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To read more of North Carolina News Daily’s coverage of the 2020 election, check out the site’s Law section.