Raleigh, N.C. — U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan spent much of the primary season on the defensive, as both Republican candidates and outside groups attacked her for her support of the Affordable Care Act.
A super PAC associated with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid aired ads in recent months pounding away at state House Speaker Thom Tillis – even before he captured the May 6 primary – to bolster Hagan, but she remained relatively quiet.
That changed Tuesday night, when Hagan teed off on her challenger during a stop in Raleigh.
Speaking at the annual Green Tie Awards dinner of the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, Hagan criticized Tillis on the issue of climate change and the "special interest agenda" he has advanced in the legislature.
"Unlike my opponent Thom Tillis, who flatly denies the existence of climate change, I know the EPA’s ability to responsibly regulate greenhouse gas emissions is key to protecting our environment for future generations,” Hagan said.
Campaign spokesman Jordan Shaw said Tillis recognizes that climate changes over time, but those fluctuations shouldn't be used to enact regulations that stifle the U.S. economy.
"Whether it's job-killing regulations from the EPA, refusing to expand energy exploration that would create jobs and reduce energy costs or cap-and-trade policies that damage job creation efforts, the Hagan/Reid/Obama energy agenda is bad for America," Shaw wrote in an email.
Hagan went through a litany of legislation passed by the General Assembly on Tillis' watch, including cuts to unemployment benefits, a refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, tax reforms that favor the wealthy and cuts to education spending.
"In Raleigh, my opponent rammed through a special interest agenda with the wrong priorities that hurt North Carolina families and violated our shared values,” she said. "I tell you, when you see what this current legislature has done, I think it is really scary.”
Shaw said Tillis "has worked to create opportunities for North Carolina middle-class families and small businesses," citing the decline in the state's unemployment rate in recent months.
"Kay Hagan has been doing everything she can to avoid talking about her partisan record of voting with President Obama 95 percent of the time," Shaw wrote in an email.
Hagan said she stands by her vote for the Affordable Care Act, adding that it needs to be amended to fix documented problems, not repealed.
"He wants to repeal this bill," she said of Tillis, "which would take us back to a time that, if you had a pre-existing condition, you are out of luck as far as getting individual health care coverage. Seniors would be paying more for prescription drugs than they are today, and women would automatically be paying more than men."