Attacks sharpened in final Senate debate

Posted October 9, 2014

— Two U.S. Senate candidates threw out words such as "shameless" and "spineless" Thursday night as they ratcheted up their attacks in their final debate before the Nov. 4 election.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis exchanged blows for an hour in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters, pretty much ignoring Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh, who stood between them behind the news desk of WECT-TV and offered what he called "an alternative" to the major-party candidates and special interest financing.

The debate touched on some of the topics covered in a Hagan-Tillis debate on Tuesday, including foreign policy, gay marriage and the Ebola crisis but also featured some questions of special interest to Wilmington-area viewers, such as beach renourishment and offshore oil and gas exploration.

Hagan and Tillis used many of the questions to pivot to their usual talking points, from Tillis saying that Hagan supports President Barack Obama's agenda 96 percent of the time to Hagan accusing Tillis of cutting school funding and opposing equal pay for women measures.

Tillis called it "shameless" that Hagan missed a Senate Armed Services Committee to attend a campaign fundraiser in New York, missing a briefing on Islamic State militants.

"What on Earth could be more important than understanding the threat to our men and women in uniform and the threat that ISIS poses in the Middle East and to our own safety and security?" he asked.

Hagan responded by noting that Tillis missed numerous House sessions this summer while he was out raising campaign funds. She said she is well informed on the situation in Iraq and Syria and said Tillis is "spineless" because he won't provide specifics on what course of action he would support in the region.

"Our military men and women on the ground deserve to know," she said.

Amid the bickering, Haugh tried to articulate his platform of ending U.S. military involvement abroad and downsizing government, both to cut taxes and to loosen the grip of special interests on policy-making.

"We allow one-stop shopping right now because of all the centralized control in Washington," he said. "We need to decentralize the government and return a lot of matters to the states and the people."

Haugh also called the 2012 amendment outlawing gay marriage in North Carolina "repugnant" because it denied people rights instead of guaranteeing rights.

Tillis and state Senate leader Phil Berger on Thursday hired a California lawyer to continue pressing for North Carolina's law in the federal courts, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday not to hear any appeals on the issue. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds legal sway in North Carolina, invalidated a similar gay marriage ban in Virginia this summer.

When Hagan said that she urged Obama to allow energy exploration off North Carolina's coast, Tillis labeled her a "pen pal," saying she and other senators should send the president legislation to sign instead of writing him forceful letters.

"We don't need a pen pal. We need a senator," he said.

In questions about the economy and the minimum wage, Tillis and Haugh both said the government needs to cut regulations to allow businesses more freedom to create jobs. Haugh, who delivers pizzas for a living and earns minimum wage, said raising the minimum wage would only lead to higher prices for all consumers. Hagan, meanwhile, said tax cuts passed by Tillis and North Carolina lawmakers only aggravated the income inequality in the state. She said raising the minimum wage would benefit thousands of people statewide, but Tillis said it would lead to job cuts instead.

Hagan and Tillis also traded charges on conflict of interest. Tillis said Hagan's husband's business received $390,000 in federal stimulus money after she voted to approve the overall stimulus package, while Hagan said Tillis' investments benefited from stimulus tax credits. She noted that her husband obtained an ethics opinion before seeking the federal grant money, while Tillis said he never directly benefited from and never voted for the stimulus package.

At the close of the debate, Tillis slipped up by saying Hagan had become part of "the Republican establishment" in Washington, D.C., allowing Haugh one last chance to differentiate himself from his opponents.

"Sometimes I get the Democrats and Republicans confused too. It's easy to do," he said with a smile. "I am here to provide an alternative that other people aren't hearing."


This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • JustOneGodLessThanU Oct 15, 2014

    Haugh: Wants government almost completely out of our lives.

    Tillis: Wants gov't out of corporations' "lives", but completely into our personal lives.

    Hagan: Wants a balance.

  • imperials65 Oct 15, 2014

    "marty121010 Oct 10, 11:39 a.m.

    Hagan is a great senator for ALL the people!
    Only fools and millionaires vote for Tillis."

    But only fools vote for Hagan

  • prn13norm Oct 13, 2014

    Why are you Liberals worried about the meager funding of GOP political candidates by the KOCH brothers but turn a blind eye toward the funding of your liberal candidates by one of the richest men in the world George Soros. He earned his fortune betting against economic recovery (wonder why America's recovery is so slow?) or Warren Buffet who tried to arrange for Burger King to move their headquarters out of the US to avoid paying US taxes. Then there is the Millions extorted from middle class workers in Union dues that are destined for the DNC coffers. Why is conservative money taboo but Liberal money is acceptable? Why can President Obama campaign almost daily for the DNC while the cost of his campaigning is passed on to the working class? Typical Democratic double standard. We don't need a yes woman like Hagan in Washington. We need someone who will reign in Obama. Tillis is the one.

  • prn13norm Oct 11, 2014

    Hagan like Obama is supported by George Soros. Soros' net worth makes the Koch fortunes look like pocket change. He has made his fortune by betting that world economies will fail. Wonder why America's economy has taken so long to recover. Just follow the money supporting the Liberal Democrats!

  • aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Oct 10, 2014

    How many North Carolinians will believe the lies and rhetoric of the Kansas billionaires, (Koch brothers) funded candidate, Thom "big oil and gas money " Tillis.

  • aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Oct 10, 2014

    There is a difference between debating and bickering. This so-called debate is pitifully lacking in real information.

  • Joseph Shepard Oct 10, 2014
    user avatar

    "What failed policies would that be? And how is the Senate any more responsible for the Gridlock than the House is? It was the House that changed the most in 2010, and thats when the gridlock started....I see no reason that the Senate has to act on any of the insanity coming out of the Tea Party House.
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/share/page/1896337/?id=14063002#JyqgzxCKmsCrX3zT.99
    You are funnin us, right??? Harry Reid has some 350 House Passed bills--nearly all with bipartisan support and 50 of those authored and introduced, and passed, by Democrats in the House. And you want to blame the Republicans for this congressional constipation??Thats cute.

  • Mare Procellis Oct 10, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    What is sad is that working people will vote against their interest and the interest of the state for Tillis, when it is shown he in the puppet of ALEC who has not represented his constituency, has made the NCGA a laughingstock and ignored the NC and US constitutions.
    All he did during the debates was evade and personally attack. He presented no reason he should be awarded the privilege of representing the people of NC.

  • Mee Oct 10, 2014

    If you don't like Hagan or Tillis (and can't say from the comments here that either is very popular) and want to send a message to career politicians that you are fed up with the continued lies/status quo vote for the libertarian candidate. But sadly not enough voters will actually do anything other than what they've always done, vote for the lesser of two evils and ignore a very real alternative.

  • 50s Child Oct 10, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I can tell you who should have received stimulus money: those who earned it in the first place. It wasn't necessary to seek out companies to hand it to.

    Anyone who's immediate family of a politician with the power to raise taxes or direct the spending thereof should be ineligible to receive said monies.

    What do I mean by "immediate family"? This: if they weren't born here but would be eligible to be "reunited" with a relative who lives here "in the shadows" or right out in the open, they're "immediate family".