Thom Tillis emerged as a clear victor Tuesday in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, overpowering a tea party challenge with help from Washington power-brokers who saw him as the best candidate to challenge Democrat Kay Hagan in November.
The House speaker, running on his conservative shift at the state level, exceeded the 40 percent mark necessary to avoid a July 15 runoff election, even with strong pushes at the end from his top rivals, obstetrician Greg Brannon and pastor Mark Harris.
The Associated Press called the race just after 9:20 p.m. The 100-plus Tillis supporters at the Omni Hotel in Charlotte erupted in cheers.
The primary pitted three factions of the state GOP against each other in a race viewed as a proxy for the divisions at the national level and possibly the 2016 presidential contest.