NC Democrat Cal Cunningham set to face Tillis in November

NC Democrat Cal Cunningham set to face Tillis in November
© Cal for NC /
Former state Sen. Cal Cunningham won the Democratic nomination for the Senate on Tuesday, setting him up to face off against Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema Advocates frustrated by shrinking legal migration under Biden MORE (R-N.C.) in November. 

Cunningham prevailed over three other Democrats who were running for the party's nomination in the North Carolina Senate primary. 

Cunningham was viewed as the front-runner and won the endorsement last year of national Democrats, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Republicans have viewed him as the strongest potential challenger to Tillis, whose race is rated by The Cook Political Report as "leans Republican."

The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.), poured money into TV ads during the primary to try to boost state Sen. Erica Smith (D).

Smith is the more liberal candidate in the field, openly embracing "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal, and GOP strategists saw her as a weaker general election candidate against Tillis.

Republicans ran the ads through the Faith and Power PAC, a group funded entirely by the SLF.

SLF President Steven Law called the decision an "unqualified success" because it forced Democrats to spend cash in North Carolina defending Cunningham. 

Cunningham is entering the general election with a cash disadvantage compared to Tillis. 

His campaign had $1.47 million cash on hand in mid-February, according to Federal Election Commission records. Tillis, by comparison, had more than $5.4 million in the same time period.