N.C. Senate Hopefuls Call in the Big Guns in the Final Stretch

The campaigns of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Republican challenger Thom Tillis are turning to high-profile Democratic and Republican officeholders to bolster their candidacies less than two weeks before voters go the polls on Nov. 4.


Hagan is scheduled to appear with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Oct. 25 for a campaign event in Charlotte. Clinton, a former Democratic senator from New York, is considering running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

Tillis, the N.C. House speaker appeared with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, at an event Oct. 22 at Tillis’ campaign office in Greensboro.

In Cornelius, N.C., on Oct. 18, Johnson praised Tillis’ leadership and spoke about the crises currently facing the United States including the Obama administration’s approach to confronting ISIS in the Middle East.

“We’ve witnessed a complete lack of leadership from President Obama and Senate Democrats like Kay Hagan when it comes to confronting ISIS and addressing Ebola, and it’s why we desperately need proven leaders in Washington like Thom Tillis to move our country in a different direction,” Johnson said. “When it comes to protecting our national security, there’s a very clear contrast in this race between Thom, who will make the tough calls to keep North Carolinians safe, and Sen. Hagan, who will vote to keep Harry Reid as Senate majority leader and is a rubber-stamp for President Obama’s failed approach to ISIS and other dangerous threats to our nation.”

Tillis also has appeared with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) at recent campaign events in the state.


“In this election, North Carolina has the chance to replace President Obama’s rubberstamp Kay Hagan with a proven independent leader in Thom Tillis, who is ready to shakeup the status quo in Washington and deliver results,” Christie said in a Tillis campaign event in Wilmington, N.C. “I’m proud to stand with Thom, who is the true embodiment of the American Dream, having come from humble beginnings to work his way up the business world.”

“Thom has demonstrated time after time that he’s not afraid to stand up to either party to do what’s right for North Carolina families, and we need that kind of bold leadership in the Senate,” Christie added.

The visits by well-known, out-of-state politicians happen at a time when the polls show Hagan and Tillis in a tight race. Most surveys show Hagan with a slim lead to win a second term in office.

National Republicans believe Hagan is vulnerable in their attempt to win a majority of Senate seats in this midterm election. However, the candidacy of Libertarian Sean Haugh, a pizza-delivery man who lives in Durham, may tilt the election to Hagan by drawing conservative votes away from Tillis.

Polls show that Haugh might receive 5 to 7 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, Tillis’ campaign continues to hammer Hagan on her absences from Senate intelligence briefings on the presence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Hagan has said publicly that she was never out of the loop regarding national security briefings on ISIS and was able to get the same information through other sources. She admitted that she missed one briefing last February in the Senate’s Armed Services Committee in Washington to attend a fundraising event in New York City.


“I find that amusing,” McCain told a Durham television station on Oct. 16. “Because then why should we have to have hearings? That’s the only way that you can get a complete picture of the issues that are being addressed.”

During the candidates’ third debate on Oct. 8 in Wilmington, Hagan said that Tillis has missed several state House sessions last summer while he was away raising campaign money. She said she knows what’s happening in Syria and Iraq and attacked Tillis as being “spineless” because he won’t provide specifics on what course of action he would support in the Middle East.

“Our military men and women on the ground deserve to know,” she said during the debate.

Hagan and her allies have steadily criticized Tillis for the Republican-dominated state legislature cutting $500,000 from public education, defunding Planned Parenthood and refusing to expand Medicaid coverage to 500,000 North Carolinians under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Despite Tillis’ persistent criticisms, Hagan will likely prevail on Nov. 4, said Michael Cobb, an assistant professor of political science at N.C. State University in Raleigh.

“The polling has given her a slight lead for well over a month now, albeit a small one,” Cobb said. “Without a new event, that dynamic seems stable. Tillis hasn’t done anything to really change that dynamic.”

Hagan’s TV ads against Tillis “have hammered his positive/negative rating down to the point I don’t think he can recover,” Cobb said. “Neither candidate seems overly attractive to its supporters, but I think Tillis hasn’t won anyone over so its Hagan’s (election) to lose.”


The unpopular state legislature in which Tillis is House Speaker isn’t helping him with voters either, Cobb said.

However, Thomas Eamon, a political-science professor at High Point University, said that Tillis has a good chance of winning.

“The national mood suggests a Tillis victory if history repeats itself,” Eamon said, referring to the trend of Republican Party’s congressional victories in the 2010 midterm elections during Obama first term in the White House. “But the state legislature rivals Obama in unpopularity. And in statewide contests North Carolina is evolving into a purplish state.”

In recent weeks, Tillis’ campaign launched a fresh attack against Hagan, saying that her husband’s company received $390,000 in federal money from the stimulus package she voted for in 2009. Hagan said she did nothing wrong with her vote, and she didn’t directly benefit from the allocation.

Hagan’s “only involvement was to seek the opinion of an ethics attorney who found that it would be appropriate for her husband’s company to receive the grant just like hundreds of other North Carolina companies did,” Sadie Weiner, a Hagan spokeswoman said in a statement.

On Oct. 19, Hagan’s hometown newspaper, the Greensboro News and Record, endorsed her candidacy.

“Hagan has put the welfare of average North Carolinians first,” the newspaper said in its editorial. “That includes her vote for the Affordable Care Act. For all its flaws, the health care plan is providing medical coverage for hundreds of thousands in North Carolina who didn’t have it. The number would be greater if Tillis and other Republican leaders had not refused federal funding to expand Medicaid.”


“Hagan promised that people who liked the plans they had would be able to keep them,” the News and Record editorial continued. “That wasn’t a lie; it was a mistake. Like other senators, she didn’t anticipate that insurance companies would drop inadequate plans rather than upgrade them. But many people have found better coverage on the federal health care exchange.”


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