Published December 23, 2015
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Elaine Marshall won North Carolina's Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, triumphing over a rival that Washington insiders sought and supported.
Marshall, North Carolina's secretary of state, defeated former Army prosecutor Cal Cunningham in Tuesday's second round of voting. With 38 percent of precincts reporting, Marshall had 62 percent of the vote.
"It's energizing when people listen to your message and support you," an ecstatic Marshall said in an interview with The Associated Press after calling her mother to share the news.
Marshall argued during her campaign that she has advocated on behalf of average citizens and fought against powerful industries. She portrayed herself as an outsider in the race despite holding statewide office for more than a decade.
Paula Suttles, a teacher from Charlotte, said both Marshall and Cunningham were good candidates.
"But Elaine has more experience than Cunningham," said Suttles, 44. "I know it's not the popular thing to say this year, but experience matters. You have to have competent people in office."
The results were a blow to Democratic Party leaders in Washington who recruited Cunningham to the race and spent more than $100,000 to boost his campaign. Cunningham, a Lexington attorney seeking to become the first Iraq War veteran in the Senate, had argued that he was the best candidate to defeat Republican Sen. Richard Burr in November.
Ron Davis, a financial planner from Charlotte, said he voted for Cal Cunningham because he was a "fresh face."
"I think he would run a real competitive race against Burr," said Davis, 56. "I think he could beat him. With Marshall, it's just more of the same. She doesn't stand out and we need a change."
The extended primary has already left the Democrats starved for cash. Cunningham reported just $100,000 in campaign cash at the beginning of June while Marshall reported slightly less than $200,000. Burr, meanwhile, had stockpiled nearly $5 million as of the middle of April.
Burr easily defeated his primary opponent in May. Marshall also won during that vote among six candidates with 36 percent support while Cunningham finished second with 27 percent and exercised his right to request a runoff.
Election officials estimated that 150,000 to 175,000 people participated Tuesday's runoff elections that also included a few congressional races. Some 425,000 voted in the Democratic primary for Senate in May.
"Any election that has such a low turnout is disappointing," said Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections.