North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall just didnt have enough in the tank to put the Democratic Senate primary away Tuesday night, and she is headed to a June 22 runoff with former state Sen. Cal Cunningham.
Marshall took 36 percent of the vote, not enough to break the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Cunningham was in second place with just under 27 percent.
Though Marshall was outraised, outspent and had less of a television presence across the state, her supporters had hoped that the four-term secretary of states higher name identification would carry her to an outright victory.
Secretary Marshall had a decisive victory tonight, campaign adviser Thomas Mills said. If it drags on for six more weeks, well win by a larger margin than we did tonight. Theyve been running this race for over a year, they ran more television, they had the backing of the Washington establishment and they failed to catch the imagination of the voters of North Carolina.
Cunningham, who didnt enter the race until December, saw his numbers surge in recent weeks after he began a three-week media campaign that was unmatched by Marshall.
Heading into Tuesdays election, Cunninghams camp said that growth would only have continued if they were given six more weeks to campaign.
We started this race 37 points behind and virtually unknown, running against a 4-time statewide office-holder. Cunningham said in a statement released by his campaign. In a few short weeks, weve seen North Carolina Democrats respond loud and clear to our plans to create jobs in North Carolina and to challenge Richard Burr head on for his record of leaving North Carolina families behind. Thats why weve done so well tonight and thats why I am going to be the candidate who will beat Richard Burr in November.
National Democratic Party officials, who recruited Cunningham to run last year, will likely be among those relieved to see the contest headed to a runoff. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee clearly sees Cunningham as the better general election candidate to take on Sen. Richard Burr (R). Despite a national environment that decidedly favors Republicans, Burrs approval ratings continue to be mired in the low to mid-30s, and that has given Democrats hope of playing offense in the Tar Heel State.
But one number that worries Democrats when they look at Burr is his nearly $5 million war chest. And with Democrats fighting it out in a primary for six more weeks, the eventual nominee wont begin raising money for the general election until late June.
Meanwhile, Republicans face a runoff in the states most competitive House district after no candidate topped the 40 percent mark Tuesday night.
In the Charlotte-area 8th district, the GOP will have to wait until late June to see who will take on freshman Rep. Larry Kissell (D).
Millionaire businessman Tim DAnnunzio, who spent about $1 million of his own money on his campaign, took just under 37 percent of the vote Tuesday night. He will face former sports broadcaster Harold Johnson, who took about 33 percent, in the runoff.
While Johnson had been hesitant to go negative against DAnnunzio during the primary, it became increasingly clear the party establishment believed DAnnunzio who, among his many proposals, wants to eliminate the Department of Education is too controversial to make a strong general election candidate. With Kissell registering only in the low 60s in his own primary Tuesday (and showing underwhelming fundraising numbers this year), it seems likely that state and national party officials will play a larger role in the GOP runoff to help steer their desired nominee to victory.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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