This is the fourth in a series of profiles on the 2014 U.S. Senate Candidates on View from the Hill. Links to previous profiles are at the end of this post.
When Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C, travels the state, people ask why lawmakers in Washington are unable to compromise, which is why she values being named America's most moderate senator, a ranking she received from the National Journal last month.
“It shows that I can work across the aisle to get things done,” she said in a phone interview Friday.
Though the Republican Senate primary still looms, Hagan is targeting N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis as a likely opponent in general election in November.
Hagan’s seat is seen as one of the most vulnerable seats in the 2014 midterm elections. The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics labeled the race a toss-up in a year when Democrats are expected to have a tough challenge.
Hagan’s polling numbers have been improving slightly, with the latest Public Policy Polling study giving her an edge over Tillis and tying or surpassing other Republicans, but her approval rating still lags at 41 percent.
But the N.C. General Assembly has only a 17 percent approval rating, according to Public Policy Polling data. By positioning herself against Tillis, Hagan might gain an advantage by contrasting herself with an unpopular institution in the state.
“I think North Carolinians will clearly see and know who is on their side come this November,” Hagan said.
As a member of the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Hagan said she has worked to make supporting higher education a large part of her record.
She supported the law that prevented student loan rates from doubling last year, and she also supports efforts to simplify the financial aid process for students to know their options as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
“Another part of the Higher Ed Act is to innovate,” she said. “We need to look at paths to a credential including competency-based education, which can incorporate technology, to a (system) based on how much a student knows versus how many hours he or she sits in a classroom.”
Hagan also realizes college students' vote will be integral to her re-election campaign and said she is planning a large voter turnout effort.
She criticized the voter identification law Tillis supported, which prevents the use of student IDs at the polls.
“They are discouraging youth voting, they are discouraging same-day registration, they are discouraging provisional balloting,” she said.
Hagan also criticized negative campaign ads funded by the Koch brothers, a billionaire conservative donor duo.
“Thom Tillis and the Tillis-Koch agenda in Raleigh and the Koch brothers want to be able to buy this U.S. Senate seat so they can have a Tillis-Koch agenda in Washington,” Hagan said in a phone interview Friday.
The Koch brothers' organization, Americans for Prosperity, has spent about $8 million in negative ads against Hagan.
“I think people in North Carolina need to understand who’s paying for these ads and what their agenda is,” Hagan said. “These individuals have been able to get their agenda done in Raleigh in the General Assembly.”
Many of the ads highlighted Hagan's support of the Affordable Care Act, which hit technological snags in in its early stages. But Hagan hasn't backed down from supporting the law.
Hagan has had personal experience with health insurance issues when her daughter took time off of school at UNC to help with her mother's first Senate campaign.
“My daughter, four years younger than her older brother, had to pay more for insurance coverage just because she was a woman,” Hagan said. “That is no longer the case. And once again, my opponents want to take us back to a time when that would be the law.”
Read the other Senate profiles by clicking on the buttons below! And be sure to check out the voter's guide for information on Orange County candidates. Early voting ends May 3, and the primary election is May 6.
View from the Hill is a political blog by Daily Tar Heel staff writers. Any opinion expressed in it does not represent the Daily Tar Heel. Email the blog coordinator at email@example.com.
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