RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) — North Carolina is swinging “red” in major contests as Republicans held onto the coveted U.S. Senate seat and President Donald Trump is ahead of President-elect Joe Biden as the state continues counting votes.
Republican Senator Thom Tillis won a second term in North Carolina as Democrat Cal Cunningham conceded the key race on Tuesday.
“The voters have spoken and I respect their decision,” Cunningham said in a statement Tuesday.
After months of intensive campaigning and historic levels of fundraising, the Democrat snagged about 47% of the vote in North Carolina.
But Cunningham, who is a retired military officer, failed to overtake his Republican rival, who has garnered 48.7% of the vote.
Tillis, who has held the seat since 2015, announced that his first post-election priority will be “defeating COVID-19 and getting the economy back on track.”
He said that Cunningham personally called him on Tuesday to concede.
Both Democrats and Republicans watched this race closely, with hopes that a win would boost their sides’ chance of obtaining the Senate majority.
As the tight race was coming to a close in October, both candidates’ chances were questioned when Tillis announced his Covid-19 diagnosis and Cunningham’s extramarital affair came to light. Both revelations were made public within hours of each other.
Tillis tested positive for Covid-19 days after attending a White House event announcing the nomination of now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This was a hard-fought campaign and I wish nothing but the best to Cal and his family going forward,” said Tillis, who was formerly an IBM consultant and state House speaker.
“I am incredibly humbled by the chance to serve the people of North Carolina in the United States Senate for six more years and I pledge to continue keeping my promises and delivering results,” the Republican added.
Despite his loss, Cunningham thanked election officials, his campaign team, volunteers and the record number of North Carolina voters who cast their ballots this year.
“While the results of this election suggest there remain deep political divisions in our state and nation, the more complete story lies in what unites us: our faith and sense of confidence in our democracy, our civic values and common humanity, our shared aspiration to care for one another and our belief that we live in a country that does exceptional things,” he said.
According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, 5.49 million Tar Heel State residents voted in the 2020 General Election.
That is up from 4.77 million in 2016 when Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 49.8% to 46.2%.
The presidential race in North Carolina had not been called, but Trump is projected to win the battleground state as he currently holds 49.9% of the vote to Biden’s 48.7%.
On Tuesday night, fewer than 20 county elections boards in the state were continuing to count mail-in ballots.
As long as the absentee-by-mail ballots were postmarked by 5 p.m. on Nov. 3, officials are still counting the votes until the Thursday cut-off.