- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) - Four of his five former Republican rivals for the party’s U.S. Senate nomination are showing they back state House Speaker Thom Tillis. But second-place finisher Greg Brannon stayed away from the party’s weekend convention, raising questions about tea party support.

Tillis joined former Senate candidates Mark Harris, Heather Grant, Jim Snyder and Ted Alexander on stage Saturday as North Carolina Republicans convened at the state’s only casino in the mountain town of Cherokee.

Tillis said the support shown by most of his former rivals indicated Republicans would be unified against Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

“I’m glad the primary happened,” Tillis told nearly 700 delegates. “Now is the time to bring the battle to Kay Hagan.”

On the same day Republicans were meeting, Democratic activists gathered about 300 miles east in Raleigh where Hagan made her case for re-election. Her convention speech never mentioned President Barack Obama and sought to link Tillis to outside groups helping his campaign.

The Hagan-Tillis race is among a handful of elections around the country that could tip the partisan majority and control of the Senate for the last two years of Obama’s presidential term.

In Cherokee, Charlotte conservative Jack Brosch said he didn’t vote for Tillis in the May primary election, but he would in the fall.

“I’m looking more at the national level and casting my vote for what I perceive is the good of America as opposed to carrying out some vendetta in North Carolina,” Brosch said.

Bobby Crawford, of Wilmington, and Gates County delegate Dede Hill supported Brannon. Both said they will vote for Tillis but not actively campaign for him.

“I will honor the Republican Party, but I will not break my back to get him elected,” Hill said.

In Raleigh, Hagan touted her record in Washington. Fellow Democrats approved a resolution to congratulate the Obama administration for a successful roll-out of the federal health care law. Democrats also agreed on a resolution supporting the “Moral Monday” protests against actions of GOP Gov. Pat McCrory and the large Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is exploring a bid for governor in 2016, said state government had been “hijacked by extremists.”

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