With 100% of precincts reporting, Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, will take on vulnerable Senate Democrat Kay Hagan for her seat this November.

Receiving just under 46% of the vote, Tillis surpassed the 40% of votes necessary to avoid a runoff. Trailing Tillis were Tea Party backed candidates Greg Brannon, with 27%, and Mark Harris, with 18%.

Via Yahoo! News

Tillis’s victory sets up a general election fight with Hagan that will be among the country’s most hard-fought and closely watched U.S. Senate races. Republicans must pick up six seats to win a Senate majority…

The Republican Senate primary in North Carolina was the first in a string of nominating battles – including May 20 contests in Kentucky, Georgia and Oregon – that will begin to determine the success of the party establishment’s effort to beat back the conservative Tea Party movement and recapture the Senate majority that eluded it in 2010 and 2012.

Tillis, who described himself as a fiscal and social conservative, was helped by more than $2.6 million in advertising from two powerful outside advocacy groups – the business-friendly Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, founded by strategist Karl Rove.

Other notable North Carolina victories include David Rouzer in NC-7, who will now take on Democrat J. Barfield for the seat of retiring Congressman Mike McIntyre. Rouzer, as you may recall, narrowly lost to McIntyre by less than 700 votes in 2012.

Former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken appears to be edging out his challenger in the 2nd district Democrat primary. With 100% of precincts reporting, Aiken leads 40.8% to 39.5%. That puts him over the top in avoiding a runoff, but since the race is so close, it has not yet been officially called for Aiken.

The “race to watch” here was the Senate primary. It was seen by many as a direct showdown between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. While it’s true that a variety of Tea Party groups backed Tillis’ challengers, this race may not be as representative of later primary contests as some Republicans might like. The split Tea Party vote, among other things, is evidence of that.

As Politico noted earlier,

Tillis might have been looking at a runoff tonight had he been up against a more credible candidate. He only won with around 46 percent of the vote in an eight-way race, with 82 percent of precincts reporting. The Club for Growth, a conservative outside group that might have been able to offset the Crossroads and Chamber, never got involved in the primary. Club officials vetted Tillis’ chief challengers and weren’t impressed.

FreedomWorks, a big Brannon backer, spent only $156,000.

Two candidates, Brannon and Harris, divided the anti-Tillis vote.

Brannon had a history of making controversial statements, including saying that food stamps are a form of slavery. He was president of an organization called Founder’s Truth, whose web site had espoused conspiracy theories.

Neither Brannon nor Harris raised enough money to be competitive. While Harris was press-friendly, Brannon’s operation was totally nonresponsive to most reporters – which made him hard to cover.

Some of the heavy hitters who backed Tillis’ challengers sound ready to move on to the general. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Tea Party Patriots founder, Jenny Beth Martin, both communicated their support of Tillis’ effort to unseat first-term Democrat Kay Hagan.

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