Cal Cunningham concedes to Thom Tillis in North Carolina Senate race

( Fox )

Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, left, and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. greet each other after a televised debate Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 in Raleigh, N.C.

Tillis’ win means Republicans now take the lead in the battle for the Senate, with the GOP holding 49 seats, and Democrats holding 48. Three seats are left: Alaska, where Republicans are leading, and in Georgia, where there will be two runoff elections in January. Republicans are angling for at least two of those to keep control.

Tillis had 48.72% of the vote compared to Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham's 46.95% with nearly 100% of precincts reporting, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections website.

“Earlier this afternoon, Cal Cunningham called me to offer his concession," Tillis said in a statement. "This was a hard-fought campaign and I wish nothing but the best to Cal and his family going forward."

The close race received national attention.

“Clearly, our Senate race is the big one. For a while in the summer, it looked like Cunningham might be running away with this thing,” elections policy analyst Andy Jackson of the conservative Civitas Institute told Fox News.

However, revelations that Cunningham, 47, engaged in an extramarital affair gave Tillis an October surprise advantage.

Cunningham, who is married, admitted to exchanging romantic texts with California woman Arlene Guzman Todd after the messages leaked. Guzman Todd later told The Associated Press that they had a physical affair.

Tillis, 60, had the odds stacked against him — North Carolina voters are “brutal” to their incumbent senators, rejecting nearly all modern senators after just one term, Jackson said.

Tillis had problems generating enthusiasm among his conservative base, and his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham has done better in polls, Jackson said.

"Cunningham’s path was much simpler: grab those middle undecided voters," Jackson explained.

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