POLITICS

Kay Hagan Loses Senate Re-Election To Thom Tillis

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) was narrowly defeated by North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) on Tuesday in one of the nation's closest Senate races.

The Associated Press called the race for Tillis after the polls closed, with the Republican leading Hagan by 2 percentage points. Libertarian pizza deliveryman Sean Haugh trailed far behind.

Hagan, who was first elected to the Senate in 2008, was considered one of this electoral cycle's most vulnerable Democratic incumbents. The Tar Heel State race was closely scrutinized as one that might contribute to a new GOP majority in the Senate. Republicans went into Tuesday's election needing to pick up six seats to gain control of Congress' upper chamber.

North Carolina's expensive television topography, with multiple key media markets, also helped drive spending in the contest to $111 million, making it the first general election Senate race to pass the $100 million mark.

The campaigns and their affiliated outside groups spent heavily on turnout efforts in a state that President Barack Obama won by just 11,000 votes in 2008 and lost by nearly 100,000 votes in 2012. While Tillis' campaign worked to tie Hagan to Obama, frequently repeating the claim that she had voted with the president "96 percent of the time," the senator's campaign did the opposite by trying to de-nationalize the race. In debates and on the airwaves, Hagan and her surrogates reminded voters of Tillis' leadership in the North Carolina legislature in an attempt to make him vulnerable over issues like education.

Tillis, on the other hand, worked to moderate some of his policy stances in order to neutralize Hagan's attacks. He announced new support for making birth control available over the counter. And after he had campaigned in the GOP primary on his opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage to some 500,000 North Carolinians under the Affordable Care Act, he said during the general election that he would "encourage" North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and the state legislature to consider a Medicaid expansion.

National Republicans harbored concerns that Tillis should have resigned his state House leadership role in order to campaign full-time. He was busy presiding over the North Carolina House through July. But Tillis caught up as autumn progressed. He seized on Hagan's admission that she had missed a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Islamic State to raise money in New York City. Hagan's campaign countered by pointing out that Tillis had missed legislative sessions himself to attend fundraisers.

Still, the senator appeared to feel the need to counter Tillis' foreign policy attacks. In October, she became one of the first Democrats facing a close re-election contest to call for a temporary travel ban on non-U.S. citizens from countries in West Africa affected by the Ebola virus.

As the North Carolina race tightened, the State Board of Elections released data showing that early voting was up 20 percent compared to the last midterm election in 2010. Last year, the GOP-controlled state legislature had repealed same-day registration, cut the early voting period by a week and ended out-of-precinct voting. Proponents of those measures argued that the early voting totals meant the restrictions hadn't had the vote-suppressing impact that opponents had suggested they would.

On Tuesday, however, reports emerged of voters being turned away from the polls because they were still showing up to vote at the wrong precincts. Voting rights advocates had also suggested that a backlash to the new restrictions might motivate people who otherwise would not have voted.

Below, more live updates on the 2014 midterm elections:

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