RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina voters are about to decide who they believe can best challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November: a state politics insider backed by Mitt Romney or first-time candidates more aligned with the tea party and the Christian right.

Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary will highlight the struggle for control in the Republican Party as eight candidates run for the GOP nomination in a campaign that could influence the party and the makeup of the U.S. Senate. Republicans and independents can vote in the Republican primary. Hagan was being challenged in her own party by two lesser-known opponents.

Thom Tillis, the state House speaker and leading fundraiser in the GOP primary, is hoping to avoid a mid-July runoff by securing more than 40 percent of the vote.

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