Hagan, Tillis meet in first Senate debate

Posted September 3, 2014
Updated September 4, 2014

— Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis traded accusations and talking points for an hour Wednesday night during their first face-to-face debate before the Nov. 4 election.

In the first of two debates sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, the two candidates addressed issues ranging from immigration and U.S. policy in Syria to the Affordable Care Act and education spending.

Tillis repeatedly hammered the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., Hagan's record in shepherding legislation through Congress and her frequent support of policies backed by President Barack Obama, who has a low approval rating among North Carolina voters.

"When Kay Hagan went to Washington, she immediately became part of the Washington establishment, a rubber stamp for Barack Obama and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid," Tillis said. "She's failed the people of North Carolina."

For her part, Hagan used the unpopular General Assembly as an anchor to tie Tillis down, citing cuts to unemployment benefits, the state's refusal to expand Medicaid to provide health coverage for the poor and disabled and the exodus of teachers from the public school system.

"Speaker Tillis has the wrong priorities," Hagan said. "At every opportunity, he has fought for policies that are taking our state backwards."

On several occasions, Hagan pivoted away from questions from moderator Norah O'Donnell of CBS News to bring up Tillis' record on education. When discussing the concept of raising the minimum wage or dealing with unemployment, the senator noted that the best way to expand North Carolina's economy is through investing in education, something she said a Tillis-led House has failed to do in recent years.

Fact Check Logo US Senate debate produces some questionable claims

Tillis responded by citing the 7 percent average pay raise for teachers that lawmakers passed this summer as part of the state budget.

"Sen. Hagan really needs to understand and maybe spend more time back in the state to understand the great things we've done in this state," he said.

Tillis shifted away from some questions as well, focusing on Hagan's ties to Obama and how statements she made when running for Senate in 2008 compared with her record today. Repeatedly referring to the senator by her first name rather than by her title, he said she failed to push for improvements in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for five years, and didn't try to hold down the national debt.

"That seems to be saying one thing and doing another, and that's not new to Kay," he said. "Take a look at Kay in 2008, and take a look at Kay of 2014 – Kay 1.0 and Kay 2.0."

Hagan tried to separate herself from Obama, noting that she voted against trade deals that cost North Carolina jobs and from Democrats in Congress, noting that she voted against a budget that cut military spending.

"I stand with the president when it's right for North Carolina, but let me tell you, I stand with the people of North Carolina when it's right for the people of North Carolina," she said.

After the debate, both candidates were enthusiastic about their performances.

“I was just standing on our convictions, standing on what I believe, and I believe that Kay Hagan’s failed the people of North Carolina,” Tillis said.

“I feel great about this debate. As I’ve said, I think there’s this huge contrast,” Hagan said.

Tillis also used time in the press room to rebut Hagan's assertion that he doesn't understand women.

"I’m worried about this administration and what they’ve done to women," he said. "Under Barack Obama and Kay Hagan, more women are out of work. They’re suffering disproportionately. Under Obamacare, more women are having more strains because now they know their health care options are going to be limited.”

Meanwhile, Hagan responded to Tillis' claim that she doesn't understand budgetary math.

"When I hear over and over again about the increase, the 'largest raise in history,' I think teachers in North Carolina, I think parents, I think families are insulted by his term of 'math,'" she said. “I understand math, but I understand the value of a math teacher even more. And when I look at the droves of teachers who have left North Carolina, it concerns me greatly.”

The two candidates will debate again on Oct. 7.


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  • imperials65 Sep 8, 2014

    As a purported scientist, you should know that acting in ignorance is incompetence. This was Hagan's most significant vote and she botched it because she could have made certain that she understood the ACA and knew whats its benefits and flaws were before voting for it.
    You are making the same silly excuses that Democrats make, which makes your claim to scientific objectivity and independence suspect.
    The Republicans were not powerful to "destroy" a single room of this "house," so your analogy is not apt.
    Sorry, but this is the critical issue of the election, and while I have voted for politicians of many kinds over the years, I try to avoid those who are blatantly deceitful or incompetent.
    Kay Hagan is not passing the test and neither are those who say her ignorance on the vote was not significant.

  • Objective Scientist Sep 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Take a deep breath imperials65... and let it out slowly! Did I "defend such incompetence"? Incompetence in this case being "unaware" of what was actually in the ACA bill. I did not. I pointed it out! I believe it incredibly incompetent to make an absolute statement about something without being 100% certain that what you say will indeed be the case! From what I observed... I believe it was neither a "con" nor a "lie", rather simple unadulterated ignorance - which, in some ways, may be worse than a "con" or "lie"! And yes, I believe it possible Hagan voted for the ACA without full understanding of it... as did a lot of people. Yes, the ACA was Obama and the Democrats' highest priority, but as an INDEPENDENT (whether you care or not) I have to acknowledge that developing the ACA at the same time Republicans were demolishing it... I'm surprised it worked at all! Try building a house when someone demolishes one room as you build another

  • imperials65 Sep 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I dont care whether you are an independent or not. Once it became known that the ACA was not workable as promised, it should have been simple enough to acknowledge it. Instead the President and his allies doubled down. Was it a con, and not a lie? I have a couple of friends who lost their insurance because of this. The policy is no longer offered. One of them spent 2 weeks on the phone trying to find out what she could do with her original insurer (that she was originally happy with), and then researching other policies, then trying to sign up and get coverage.
    Also, since "there is ample evidence to suggest that virtually NO ONE understood the ACA bill," why would you defend such obvious incompetence? How can anyone? They had opportunities to build the system that they wanted. It was the Democrat's highest priority. Are you telling me that Kay Hagan voted for something that she could not possibly have understood?

  • prn13norm Sep 5, 2014

    Obama,Pelosi, Reid, and Hagan. Is this what you want leading our country?

  • Objective Scientist Sep 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    From someone who does a fair amount of speaking in front of people, and is also frequently watching/listening to other people speak... I thought Tillis did a better job of "presenting himself and his thoughts"... the manner in which he articulated his ideas, etc. than did Hagan. When you look at "content"... what each actually said and the points made by each... I do not believe one did better than the other. And... I am a political INDEPENDENT... beholding to neither candidate or party.

  • Objective Scientist Sep 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Regarding your question - I am a political INDEPENDENT and am NOT defending Hagan. That said... I believe there is ample evidence to suggest that virtually NO ONE understood the ACA bill! A "lie" is defined as a DELIBERATE attempt to mislead and to KNOWINGLY present false information. I believe Hagan trusted Obama, and I believe that when Obama made the oft-repeated claim "You like your doctor, you can keep your doctor!" - he was not lying... he actually thought the ACA bill would work that way! To make that absolute claim - which has apparently worked that way for most, but not all - was "misguided" at the least. Bottom line... it is my belief that until the ACA was put into effect almost no one, if anyone, knew for certain what the outcome would be. It is a large, complex undertaking with lots of "wheels turning" and "loose bolts and nuts". As with all undertakings of such magnitude... it needs some "fine tuning" and "adjustments".

  • imperials65 Sep 5, 2014

    If you thought Hagan gave a credible performance, then your mind was already made up. I was not sure about Tillis, but he was congenial, knowledgeable, and articulate. He also made the point that he was a leader in Raleigh and did not make excuses about his votes. What I would like to hear is why Hagan voted for the ACA since it turned out to be so flawed. Did she not understand the bill that she voted on?

  • Objective Scientist Sep 5, 2014

    Every time I read comments to a "political article" I cringe at the extensive use of polarizing words such as liberal and conservative. In my undergraduate years at a great university I took a political science course taught by a truly great professor. To this day I do not know if he was Democrat-Liberal or Republican-Conservative... or whatever. He taught the course in a very objective, unbiased fashion. Since that course I have followed politics closely... and find it "intriguing" as a field of study. Folks... liberal - moderate - conservative are truly relative terms. At one time we had at least a few conservative Democrats that were to the right of some liberal Republicans... and vice-versa!!! Some of those were labeled "moderates", some not. When I read these comments it is clear that some do not truly understand those polar words... liberal vs conservative. Some scream that ANYONE/ANYTHING liberal is to be regarded as truly HORRIBLE... and some vice-versa. THINK!!!

  • Danny22 Sep 5, 2014

    Hagan has done absolutely nothing for NC. She will be remembered for spewing obamacare lies. So sad.

  • proudgrandmomma Sep 4, 2014

    Folks Kay hagan on I'm sorry I meant senator Kay hagan is just to liberal for this state. We should of had more leadership like Tom Tillis and then maybe we wouldn't be in such a mess.