Hagan Knows She Has Tough Challenger in Tillis to Retain Her Senate Seat
However in North Carolina and in other Southern states, Republican candidates have drawn ballots from conservative Democratic and unaffiliated voters since the late 1960s.
The Republican ascendancy in what was the solid Democratic South occurred after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the mid-1960s.
Conservative white Democrats flocked en masse to the Republican Party, and those voters helped elect Jim Holshouser in 1972, the first Republican governor in the state in the 20th century, and Jim Martin in 1984, the second GOP governor in 1900s.
A coalition of Republicans, conservative Democrats and rural voters helped elect the late Republican Sen. Jesse Helms to five consecutive Senate terms from 1972 to 2002.
Political observers say Tillis has a strong chance to beat Hagan in November if the Tillis campaign can persuade a majority of voters that the conservative agenda that he has pursued as the speaker of the N.C. House is the right approach for the state.
Hagan must convince voters that her moderate stances on most issues are the best way to help middle-class families in North Carolina. She will likely tap into the coalition of Democratic voters who supported Obama in the past two presidential elections – blacks, liberal and moderate whites, single women and some business people – in her effort to defeat Tillis.
Hagan and Tillis achieved statewide recognition for their service in the state legislature.
Hagan served 10 years in the N.C. Senate before she became the first woman to defeat an incumbent female senator (Dole) in 2008. She and her husband, Chip, have three grown children. In Washington, Hagan is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Tillis, a Mecklenburg County Republican, was elected to the N.C. House in 2006. Tillis has been re-elected to four additional two-year terms in the N.C. General Assembly.
The House Republican Caucus first elected Tillis as House speaker in 2011, a post he has retained since then. Tillis and his wife, Susan, have two children.
In recent weeks, the campaign staffs of Hagan and Tillis and officials with the N.C. Democratic and state GOP have sent emails to North Carolina’s news media, criticizing the candidates’ positions on a range of issues.
Hagan and her allies attack Tillis for his leadership role in the state legislature, which last year passed the voter identification bill and refused to expand Medicaid coverage to 500,000 state residents as part of Obamacare.
In turn, Tillis and his allies continue to roundly criticize Hagan for her support of Obamacare and her tacit backing of the N.C. NAACP, which has led the Moral Monday protests in Raleigh against McCrory and the Republican-dominated state legislature.
Two readers of the Winston-Salem Journal and many average citizens believe that the U.S. Senate race this will be a nasty political contest with constant TV and radio advertisements from both sides.
“The Hagan campaign will pound away at holding Thom Tillis accountable for all of the things he proudly takes credit for but so many people do not like what the Republicans have done in Raleigh,” Steve Barneycastle wrote in a letter to the newspaper.
“The Republicans will attach Sen. Hagan to the president in every way they can, and rightfully so, as she was a good loyal Democrat,” Ken Hoglund wrote in a letter to the Journal. “Just as George W. Bush poisoned the well for Republicans in 2008, President Obama has done the same for Democrats.”