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N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, left, talks with voter Donald Parrott of Charlotte outside Precinct 75 at Holy Covenant UCC in Charlotte, N.C., on May 6, 2014
Jeff Siner—The Charlotte Observer/AP

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis overcame Tea Party opposition Tuesday to nab the GOP nomination for the Senate race, winning a key battle for establishment Republicans as the party seeks to win a majority in the Senate.

Tillis will be running against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, a vulnerable first-term incumbent in a purple state that has been at the center of the national debate over the president’s health care law.

In Tuesday’s primary, Tillis fended off a Tea Party-backed libertarian and a Baptist pastor, and was endorsed by establishment groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Right to Life Committee, and GOP moderates such as former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. By winning the race with a solid 48 percent of the vote, Tillis avoided a costly runoff that could have weakened Republicans in the race against Hagan, the Associated Press reports.

Other races Tuesday handed Republican incumbents victories as well. First-term Rep. David Joyce of Ohio overcame a Tea Party rival with heavy Chamber of Commerce support, while GOP Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana fended off a challenge from the right.

In the marquee North Carolina contest, the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, has run about $7 million worth of television ads against Hagan for supporting the healthcare law.



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