The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

NC Senate race gets costly

A July survey from Raleigh-based firm Public Policy Polling revealed a potential roadblock to Republican candidate and N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis’ expensive campaign to unseat incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.

According to the poll, the N.C. General Assembly carries a 19 percent approval rating — and Mitch Kokai , a political analyst at the right-leaning John Locke Foundation, said the legislature’s poor ratings could spell trouble for Tillis, R-Mecklenburg.

Hagan also commands a significant lead in fundraising. As of June 30, Hagan has about $8.7 million in her campaign’s coffers, while Tillis has about $1.5 million according to the Federal Election Commission.

Kokai said Tillis could benefit from separating himself from the public dissatisfaction with the General Assembly’s short session, which has included tense battles over teacher pay raises and Medicaid reform.

Hagan could be in trouble if Tillis ties widespread voter discontent with President Barack Obama and his administration to Hagan’s campaign, Kokai said.

“One of the key points to keep in mind about Hagan is that her popularity tracks almost all the way with Obama — as Obama goes, so goes Hagan,” he said.

Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer said both candidates are going to have to appeal to their party base rather than to swing voters.

“If you look at both candidates, they’re candidates of political polarization right now,” he said.

Hagan’s stance on education could also give her an edge in the race against Tillis — last week her campaign attacked Tillis’ comments from an April GOP primary debate that, if elected, his first priority in trimming down the federal bureaucracy would be eliminating the Department of Education.

“It’s possible that this could paint him as out of touch,” said Jennifer Duffy , senior editor for The Cook Political Report.

Duffy said Hagan’s less than 50 percent approval ratings could be problematic.

“She’s an incumbent serving in a pretty unpopular institution,” she said. “Congress’ approval rating is actually lower than the North Carolina legislature, so that doesn’t help her.”

Voter discontent with mainstream politics, Duffy said, has given a boost to Libertarian Party candidate Sean Haugh, a little-known pizza delivery man from Durham. According to Public Policy Polling, Haugh has 8 percent of N.C. voters.

Kokai said Libertarian candidates have the ability to draw votes from both parties.

Though Hagan’s approval is less than a majority, Hagan’s spokesman Chris Hayden said her ratings were simply a representation of North Carolina’s political climate.

“North Carolina is not super liberal or conservative, and the ratings reflect that,” he said.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for February 5, 2024