GOP Establishment Favorite Thom Tillis Wins Senate Nod in N.C.

Three states held primary elections Tuesday — Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio. Early returns suggest it's not going to be a good night for the Tea Party.

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis won the Republican U.S. Senate nomination Tuesday, a victory for GOP establishment forces over the Tea Party in a battleground state that will feature one of the nation's most competitive Senate races this fall.

Tillis, who avoided a runoff by winning more than 40 percent of the vote, will face first-term Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November. Hagan rates among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats.

In an expensive and crowded Republican primary that pitted three distinct wings of the GOP against each other, Tillis was the best-funded candidate. He carried the backing of the business and donor class; Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush both announced their support for his campaign.

Tillis led in the polls for much of the campaign, trailed by Greg Brannon, who had Tea Party backing, and Mark Harris, a pastor with evangelical support. There wasn't much question that Tillis was the candidate to beat — the only question was whether he could pass the 40 percent threshold for outright victory.

By winning 45 percent of the vote, with 70 percent of precincts reporting, Tillis avoided the possibility of a costly and bloody July runoff — a contest that could have depleted his campaign's resources and exacerbated intra-party rifts.

Brannon, who was endorsed by 2016 presidential prospect and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, finished second with 27 percent. Harris, who was backed by former Arkansas Gov, Mike Huckabee, finished third with 18 percent.

In Ohio, House Speaker John Boehner fended off three little-known Republican opponents Tuesday, posting a runaway primary victory that underscored his firm grip on his Cincinnati-area district.

The congressman outpaced his closest challenger, teacher J.D. Winteregg, in a contest that was never really close. Boehner spent close to $12 million, compared to just $48,000 for the Tea Party-backed Winteregg.

With 44 percent of precincts reporting, Boehner led 69 percent to 22 percent, according to the Associated Press. In the safely Republican 8th District, Boehner's primary election win all but guarantees he'll be elected to a 13th term in November.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.