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Thursday, November 20, 2014

How Republican Thom Tillis won the North Carolina Senate Race

There was a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina up for election in 2014. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan was seeking a second term, and Republican candidate Thom Tillis was the challenger. Polls showed Hagan was ahead of Tillis mostly throughout the election, yet in a surprise Thom Tillis beat Kay Hagan in the final election, 48.9% to 47.2%. How did Thom Tillis pull off this victory?

This Republican victory is one of the more controversial ones, using high risk and controversial tactics. The campaign started off normal, with Hagan criticizing Tillis for cutting education spending. Thom Tillis was able to defend his record on education, so this criticism died off. Then in October, treats from ISIS and Ebola flooded the news, and Tillis was ready to take positions on these hot topics. Another fortune came for Tillis when Hagan admitted on October 8 that she had missed a classified hearing for Armed Services Committee about ISIS to attend a campaign fundraiser in New York City.

These October events certainly helped Tillis come closer in the polls, but he was still behind and needed more fortunate luck or some new tactics to pull ahead of Hagan. Political races are like poker games, full of big cash, high risk, and high thrills. When Tillis knew he had a good hand, but Hagan probably had a slightly higher hand (you can't see your opponent's cards, but you can make educated guesses), Tillis decided to make a very risky move by increasing the bets, hopefully to intimidate his opponent. The North Carolina U.S. Senate race of 2014 turned out to be the most costly U.S. Senate race so far in American politics, which broke a new record at $113 million.

Another controversial tactic by Thom Tillis was to suppress the minority voters any way possible, especially Black voters who consistently vote around 90% Democrat. Thom Tillis and the Republicans eliminated early voting in North Carolina, where most early voters are African American and/or Democrats.
All of these problems add up to fewer people voting, and election results skewered towards Republicans, who designed the laws. According to Weiser, in 2010, 200,000 voters cast ballots during the early voting days, which were cut by Tillis’s law. In 2012, 700,000 voted during those days; this number accounted for more than a quarter of all of the votes cast African-Americans that year. Weiser writes, “In 2012, 100,000 North Carolinians, almost one-third of whom were, African-American, voted using same day registration, which was not available this year.”

Thom Tillis won by less than 50,000 votes, and allowing those early voters to vote wold have easily reversed Tillis' fortune in the final election.

This was one of the more controversial victories the Democrats could have won if there were better prepared. For the Democrats, you got to get your voters out during every election, not just the Presidential elections. Also, focus more on the state and local elections. Alot of the election policies are set at the state and local levels. The Republicans know this too well, especially with their successful gerrymandering of House Representative districts in 2010.


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