The mood was triumphant on primary night at the Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh. U.S. Senator Thom Tillis won his GOP primary and will run for re-election against Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham.
That upcoming race will be an extremely expensive one, with Cunningham getting solid support from national Democrats. That price tag is something state GOP Chairman Michael Whatley acknowledges, and he’s ready for the fight.
"We know that they're going to bring millions upon millions of dollars from outside of North Carolina into this race to try and back Cal Cunningham,” said Whatley. “And they are not going to be able to do it because Thom is going to raise the resources that he needs."
State GOP officials are now primed for an us-versus-them fight and in gubernatorial candidate Dan Forest, Republican voters have an unquestionable conservative to root for. The two-term lieutenant governor won his GOP gubernatorial primary by a wide margin and will face incumbent Democrat Roy Cooper.
Forest was a vocal proponent of HB2, the now repealed law that prohibited transgender people from using bathrooms according to their gender identity. He also supports private school vouchers for families of all income levels.
The slate of North Carolina Republican candidates appeals to voters like 17-year-old Joshua Crockett, who will turn 18 ahead of the general election, in November. Crockett is happy to see a Republican roster topped by Donald Trump, Dan Forest, and Thom Tillis.
"Obviously, all the candidates are very strong politically and appeal very well to everybody that they can, pro-life people, country people,” said Crockett.
Wake County voter Danielle Robinson concurs, she recently switched from unaffiliated to Republican because she says her principles align more with the GOP platform.
"My faith is important to me,” said Robinson, wearing a red and white "Run Forest Run" t-shirt in support of the Republican gubernatorial candidate. “Limited government is actually important to me."
Across Town, Democrats Celebrate Their Victories, Too
On the Democratic side, supporters clinked glasses and picked at hors d’oeuvres as primary results rolled in last night. A sense of celebration and relief swept through the downtown Raleigh event space, first with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s win in North Carolina, then when Cunningham received the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.
In the primaries for U.S. House of Representatives, candidates ran in districts that were redrawn last fall because they were deemed excessively partisan. Democrat Deborah Ross claimed the new second district.
“I feel great,” said Ross in reaction to her win. “We are all together. We know the stakes and we’ve got to win.”
Democrats touted the diversity in their ticket, and stressed the importance of down ballot races.
Cheri Beasley, chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and the state’s first-ever black female chief justice, is seeking a full eight-year term in November. Three of the state’s Supreme Court seats are on the ballot this fall. Her message to supporters was straightforward but poignant: “Don’t forget the judges. Don’t forget the judges.”
If Beasley was outdone by anyone, it might have been Governor Cooper. Flanked by his wife, with his dress shirt sleeves rolled up, he delivered one of his most passionate speeches and called 2020 the most important election of our lifetime.
“I want you to go knock doors. I want you to go make phone calls. I want you to go on social media,” Cooper said.
North Carolina is the only presidential battleground in the country that also has a competitive U.S. Senate race, as well as a Governor’s race. Super Tuesday is complete, but the real race is just beginning.