Speed Reads

2014 Watch

North Carolina Republican primaries: Two key races to watch

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Voters are heading to the polls today in North Carolina, with two key Republican primaries to especially look out for.

In the Senate race, where Republicans are hoping to defeat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan this November, state House Speaker Thom Tillis must first go up against a feisty anti-establishment challenge from multiple contenders. Under North Carolina law, Tillis can win the nomination outright if he clears 40 percent of the vote, for which a recent poll showed him right on the cusp.

But if Tillis misses that, he could end up in a very lively runoff on July 15 against Tea Party activist Greg Brannon — who has said some of the darnedest things about democracy, socialism, public schools, local property taxes, and a whole host of other topics.

And further down the ticket, the incumbents vs. insurgents narrative is reversed for 20-year Rep. Walter Jones — himself an anti-war, populist renegade against the GOP leadership. His opponent is Taylor Griffin, a former Treasury Department official under President George W. Bush who has support ranging from banking interests all the way to Sarah Palin.

The polls will close tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET.