Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis are locked in a tight race, according to two new polls.
The surveys also show Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh could be a factor in the race.
Meanwhile, a former Tillis opponent officially kicked off a write-in campaign Wednesday and an anti-abortion group announced plans to hold a rally outside Hagan’s Charlotte office next week.
A USA Today Suffolk University poll released Wednesday showed Hagan holding a 45 percent to 43 percent lead. With a 4.4 percentage point margin of error, that means the race essentially is a dead heat.
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She led Tillis 42 percent to 38 percent in a survey released Tuesday by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling. Its margin of error was 3.4 percent.
Both polls showed single-digit but potentially crucial support for Haugh. He had 8 percent support in the PPP poll and 5 percent in the Suffolk survey.
While that could take votes from both candidates, it’s expected to hurt Republicans more.
“We all agree he’s in single digits, but if he ends up getting 8 (percent) it’s going to be very tough for Tillis,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.
Also Wednesday, John Rhodes, a former Republican legislator from Huntersville, formally kicked off a write-in campaign for Senate. It was Tillis’ defeat of Rhodes in 2006 that set Tillis on the path to becoming N.C. House speaker in 2011.
“It has been the popular belief that we must hold our nose and vote for one of the two major party’s nominees for far too long,” Rhodes said in a statement. “… It is time we vote for principle over party.”
Next week, a coalition of anti-abortion groups plans to hold a “Summer of Life” rally outside Hagan’s Charlotte office.
The Wednesday rally is organized by Concerned Women for America, a conservative group that focuses on social issues.
Scheduled speakers include David and Jason Benham, who lost a scheduled HGTV show after a group published controversial comments David Benham had once made about abortion and gay marriage.
Before the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Benham helped draw 5,000 people to a prayer service at the then-Verizon Amphitheater.
The anti-abortion rally is planned for noon outside Hagan’s office on South Boulevard.