Cunningham concedes to US Sen. Tillis in North Carolina

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Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., celebrates with his wife Susan, at a election night rally Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Mooresville, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

RALEIGH, N.C. – Democrat Cal Cunningham conceded to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina on Tuesday, saying “the voters have spoken” and it was clear Tillis had won.

With Cunningham’s concession, all eyes turned to Georgia, where two U.S. Senate runoff races in January are likely to determine the balance of the upper chamber.

With votes still uncounted and the races in North Carolina and Alaska still too early to call Tuesday, the Senate remained tied 48-48. Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan is favored for another term against Al Gross, an independent running as a Democrat. If the Senate ended up tied 50-50, Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would wield the tiebreaking vote.

Georgia is closely divided, with Democrats making gains on Republicans, fueled by a surge of new voters. But no Democrat has been elected U.S. senator in 20 years.

In North Carolina, Tillis led Cunningham by 94,500 votes, from among more than 5.4 million votes counted so far. Additional absentee and provisional ballots are being counted. Counties finalize their results on Friday.

“I just called Sen. Tillis to congratulate him on winning reelection to a second term in the U.S. Senate and wished him and his family the best in their continued service in the months and years ahead,” Cunningham said. "The voters have spoken and I respect their decision.”

Cunningham accepted defeat after outraising Tillis during what became the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history. All together, the two campaigns and outside groups spent $282 million on the general election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Tillis benefited from fallout over a Cunningham sex scandal in the campaign’s final month. Cunningham admitted to a recent extramarital relationship with a public relations consultant. Tillis said Cunningham’s emphasis on his personal story in the campaign made the misconduct a defining issue.