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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

By Renee Schoof, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Women were the key to Senator Kay Hagan’s election in 2008, and in what is likely to be a close race for re-election this year, she is stressing issues aimed at them — equal pay, health care, birth control and education.

The strategy is part of the North Carolina Democrat’s efforts to attack the policies pushed over the past three years by the Republican-controlled state legislature, where her GOP opponent, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, has played a major role.

Hagan’s game plan tries to capitalize on her party’s strength among women voters and gives her campaign a message that it hopes will appeal to women who vote independent as well. Boosting the Democratic turnout in the November mid-term election is crucial for Hagan, and Democratic candidates across the country. Midterms are traditionally low-turnout elections and often hurt the party in power, and this year it’s Hagan’s.

“In all close Senate races, male or female, Democrats win by winning women more than they lose men by,” said Democratic political strategist Celinda Lake. “So women are key to their victory.”

Particularly important for her will be the groups that traditionally drop off in off-year elections — unmarried women under 55, younger women and women of color, Lake said.

In a recent interview, Hagan said she would have “the biggest, most effective turnout operation North Carolina has ever seen in a Senate race.” She said it would include “neighbor to neighbor” visits to women by campaign volunteers.

On Monday, the campaign will unveil another piece of her strategy, the formation of “Women for Kay,” which will fan out seeking support and post campaign news on Facebook.

The group’s chairs are Betty McCain of Wilson, the former head of the state Department of Cultural Resources; Nelda Leon of Charlotte, a criminal justice consultant and president of the Hispanic American Democrats of Mecklenburg County; civil rights leader Minnie Jones of Asheville; and youth advocate Constance Hyman of Wilmington.

Hagan’s message will be pointing out policies that Tillis supported in the state legislature that her campaign believes are detrimental to women. Among them, according to the campaign, was his opposition to a state equal pay measure; and his opposition to a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage — from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 –that Congress also rejected.

Tillis also voted for restrictions on abortion services last year, and for a veto override on a budget bill that cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Hagan’s campaign says that Tillis has said states should have the right to ban contraception, though he hasn’t said whether North Carolina should do so.

Her campaign has also criticized him for supporting a constitutional amendment on “personhood,” which would grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg and possibly ban some forms of birth control.

Under Tillis’ leadership, the legislature’s 2013 budget also cut spending on education, opposed raises for teachers and ended a pay supplement for teachers with master’s degrees. In the current legislative session, however, Tillis supports an across-the-board pay raise for teachers for the coming year. Republican Senate leader Phil Berger and Republican Governor Pat McCrory also have said they support the raise.

  • Dominick Vila

    Women and “transplants” (retirees that moved South) will have an impact on every election held from North Carolina to Texas, but will that be enough? Democrats are notorious for their ambivalence in midterm elections, and are not as disciplined as Republicans. I expect a massive GOP turnout this election. Republicans are energized and are convinced that they have a great opportunity to seize control of the Senate and increase the number of sets they hold in the House. Fortunately, even under the worst circumstances for us, it would take a miracle for them to get a veto-proof majority. The bad news is that the GOP will interpret a win, regardless of how small it may be, as a mandate, and they will block everything President Obama proposes during the last two years of his presidency. Other problems include out of control gerrymandering, starving Obamacare, relentless attempts at deregulation, and passing policies designed to help the wealthy as part of their budget proposals.

    • Joyce

      I agree 100% with you, Dominick! We have the ability to get these crazy politicians out of
      Washington if only every liked-minded individual gets out and votes. Most sane Americans are against these right wing destroyers of America but we must VOTE them out. It won’t happen unless we exercise our constitutional right. I’m scared to death over what could happen if these uncompassionate politicians become the majority and cause even more havoc with our people and our democracy. Please, please vote. We have the majority, we just have to show it at the voting booths. Please make the effort to vote these people out of and away from office. Thanks.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    “Naow, you little ladies know what voting for this Demmycrat means, don’t y’all? It means that y’all are gonna want to wear shoes, and have real jobs, and not let us show our appreciation for y’all by pattin’ y’all on your fannies like we done for the past 70 years or so. Y’all don’t want to be gettin’ all uppity like on your men-folk, do y’all? After all, at least y’all still know your place in this man’s state!”

    • Allan Richardson

      As one of the women in Al Sharpton’s live audience in Atlanta last week put it, this is Jane Crow. Al thanked her for the new phrase, and I agree. Instead of “war on women” Democrats should just call the Republican policies Jane Crow.

  • terry b

    She is a terrific person and senator. Only those who want to continue the “war on women” will vote against her. She benefits all of us as she has proven time and again. A mid term election should never stop the better candidate from winning the seat she so richly deserves.

  • RobertCHastings

    Like so many Republicans who are seeking success in general elections, they will say whatever it takes, even if it flies in the face of their prior voting record and public statements. Kay Hagan has served North Carolina quite well, refusing to be a rubber stamp for the Administration, but consistently supporting reasonable policies that are good for everyone, NOT just North Carolinians. Hagan[‘s opponent, Tillis, has over the years proven to be a solid conservative, which is definitely NOT what North Carolina needs. Ranked among the bottom ten states in virtually all areas of education for quite a while, conservatives have and will continue to keep North Carolina there.