To Republicans seeking to seize control of the Senate in 2014, take heart — North Carolina is ripe for the picking. First-termer Kay Hagan faces re-election, and it is not so much that she’s a flaming liberal. Simply, she does not understand the temperament of her own state.
Hagan defeated incumbent Elizabeth Dole in 2008, largely by riding in on Barack Obama’s coattails. Arguably more moderate than liberal, the senator sits on the Armed Services Committee and takes the customary stands for North Carolina’s military bases and veterans. Thatsmycongress.com gives her a 44 percent liberal ranking and 19 percent conservative (though scores and criteria vary among the sites that keep score).
Interestingly, though North Carolina handily approved a constitutional amendment protecting the definition of marriage as one man/one woman, the senator recently, like numerous other Democratic dominoes, voiced her support for same-sex unions. Granted, leadership does not require lockstep agreement with one’s constituents, but her timing seems well-planned to insure national funding for next year’s re-election bid.
Also, the far left Daily Kos last week reported receiving an email from Senator Hagan slamming the wealthy conservative donors, the Koch Brothers. According to Hagan, the Kochs have turned North Carolina into an experiment in extremist politics. She continues, “Here’s what I see: efforts to restrict voting rights, attacks on women’s health and higher taxes on hardworking North Carolina families.”
Senator Hagan is apparently lamenting the fact that her state just elected its first Republican governor in more than 20 years. Don’t blame the Koch Brothers, Senator Hagan, blame your own party’s record of sorry, scandalous leadership. The Daily Kos concurs with Hagan, citing the Kochs’ stated goal of targeting specific — “model” — states for GOP victory. Governor Pat McCrory appointed Art Pope, Koch ally and GOP donor as state budget director, if you need any proof that North Carolina is being targeted.
But the point is not whether North Carolina has been targeted by billionaire conservative donors, the point is that the conservative donors in question found fertile ground in North Carolina. Governor McCrory’s predecessor, Bev Perdue, proved so ineffective and unpopular that she declined to seek a second term (some independent voters actually expressed disappointment at being denied the opportunity to vote against her). The state’s budget deficit has ranked as one of the nation’s worst and it’s unemployment rate has been one of the nation’s five poorest. North Carolinians were demoralized by a political culture defined by corruption — Governor Mike Easley (2001-2009) was convicted in 2010 of filing a false campaign report (he served no prison time) and a member of his cabinet served about a year in jail. That’s just a sampling. . .
So, is it any wonder that in 2010 North Carolina elected its first Republican-majority legislature in a century? Could it also not be, Senator Hagan, that a dominant factor in state elections is those other outsiders — transplants, mostly from the north — who relocate to Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte and bring their blue state tendencies with them? This is not a war on women’s health, voting rights or other far-left clichés, this is a case of native North Carolinians redoubling their efforts to forge their state’s destiny. Democracy 101.
And yet Senator Hagan could well win re-election. According to Public Policy Polling, she leads potential Republican challengers by at least five points. Despite a Republican resurgence (Mitt Romney eked out a victory that eluded John McCain in 2008), North Carolina remains highly competitive.
Bear in mind, Elizabeth Dole was considered a shoo-in in 2008, but anti-Republican sentiment helped doom her chances. Whether it is fair or not, factors beyond an individual candidate can determine an election outcome.
If Kay Hagan really thinks she can hobnob with The Daily Kos and then casually pass herself off as a common-sense moderate to her state, then she may be gravely underestimating the passion and deliberation of her constituents. North Carolinians know that it is not just our state that hangs in the balance, it is our very nation.
David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.