State News

Dole breezes to primary win; Hagan to challenge her

Posted May 6, 2008
Updated May 7, 2008

— U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan cruised to victory in the Democratic primary Tuesday and turned to the more daunting challenge of trying to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

Hagan, a state senator from Greensboro, immediately invited the support of voters who backed her chief rival, Chapel Hill entrepreneur Jim Neal. Neal had galvanized liberal activists in the party in part through his willingness to candidly discuss he was gay.

"I want to invite them to come on board, and I certainly need their support," said Hagan, who won 60 percent of the vote Tuesday.

Neal, who carried 18 percent of the vote, had repeatedly dismissed Hagan as a political insider. Neal argued that he was the only candidate with the ability to defeat Dole, a national political figure who has worked in two presidential cabinets.

Neal's campaign did not immediately return a call Tuesday night seeking comment.

Dole, first elected in 2002, easily cruised to a win in the GOP primary to defeat challenger Pete Di Lauro of Weldon. She received 90 percent of the votes.

"I look forward to an ongoing dialogue with folks from Manteo to Murphy and asking them for the privilege of representing them in a second term," Dole said in a statement provided by her campaign.

Three other Democrats ran in the primary. Lumberton attorney Marcus Williams picked up 13 percent of the primary vote, while Lexington truck driver Duskin Lassiter had 5 percent, and Moncure podiatrist Howard Staley had 4 percent.

Hagan, 54, has been a state senator for almost a decade and has served as one of the body's chief budget writers for three terms. She previously worked at NationsBank after earning a law degree at Wake Forest University, but she left the job after the birth of her third child.

Coming into Tuesday's primary, Hagan led the race in both polls and fundraising, winning the support of party regulars and repeatedly focusing her campaign on Dole instead of Neal. She raised $1.5 million and purchased a series of television advertisements across the state to boost her name recognition.

Neal, meanwhile, raised about $367,377, a third of which came from a personal loan to his own campaign. He couldn't afford to buy television time, but sought the support of party activists.

Neal was the first Democratic candidate, declaring his willingness to challenge Dole after a series of party leaders declined to get into the race. Among those who demurred: Gov. Mike Easley, Attorney General Roy Cooper and Rep. Brad Miller.

Even Hagan initially backed away. But three weeks after she decided against running, and not long after Neal disclosed he is gay, she reconsidered and joined the race.

Hagan said she needs to raise about $10 million to challenge Dole, a former secretary of Labor and secretary of Transportation who went on to lead the American Red Cross. Her husband, Bob, was the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, and she ran for the White House herself in 2000.

Dole has already set aside about $3.2 million for her re-election bid.


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  • iwideopen May 7, 2008

    Elizabeth Dole works for the RNC not NC. I can not think of one darn thing that she has done for NC since she has taken office. I do not know who Kay Hagan is but I'm gonna vote for her in the upcoming senatoral election.

  • seeingthru May 7, 2008

    E. Dole ism't she the one who got the illegal immigrant girl 2 heart/lung transplants who then SUED Duke, broke all rules, ignored the laws of this state and left tax paying americans languishing and dying on the same waiting list??? YEAHHHH she gets my vote ......

  • Vincenzo R. Abacus May 7, 2008

    I don't know if Hagan has any chance of winning the general election, but I'm willing to give just about anyone else a chance to do something useful. For an interesting exercise in the differences between our two Senators, send Senators Dole and Burr a letter or email ( If your letter is thoughtful and on topic, I can just about guarantee you'll get a phone call from Senator Burr's office in return within a week or two. By contrast, I can just about guarantee you'll get a two sentence form letter ("Dear North Carolina Citizen") three months later from Senator Dole's office thanking you for contacting her on "an important issue", and telling you that she "shares your concern(s)". As much as I disagree with Senator Burr on some subjects, I am glad that at least he remembers he has been elected to represent the citizens of North Carolina, and not just the Republican National Committee.

  • beachbum1 May 7, 2008

    We need someone to work for NC not just someone to hold a voting spot like Dole.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT May 7, 2008

    Libby Dole was not going to waste her money on weak competition. Now she has everything leftover to spend on the "Real" election. She won't have to spend too much. The upcoming November election won't present much more of a challenge.

  • davidgnews May 7, 2008

    By November, she'll make it look like she's been actually living here all along.

    IMO, she's a has-been, ex-candy-striper wannabe that thinks she's entitled to the position. She really didn't have a great record with the Red Cross back in the 80s, either.

  • JustAName May 7, 2008

    I was shocked to see that there was a someone running against her. But, since she got 90% of the vote, I guess it didn't matter. I'm sure we'll see more from her as November gets closer.

  • HockeyRules May 7, 2008

    "And "Dole was born Mary Elizabeth Hanford in Salisbury, North Carolina"

    And left in 1958 to become a resident of Washington. She remained there until she was "selected" by Karl Rove to run for Senate from NC in 2002. For 44 years, she was not really a resident of NC, but of DC.

  • discowhale May 7, 2008

    I'm politically savvy enough to know that Mrs Dole was running, it's that part of the Senatorial cycle. But, did ANYONE see an ads, sign, billboard saying she was running?

    I got 40 calls for every other race, I got none from her camp. Were they that sure of here re-election?

  • JustAName May 7, 2008

    And "Dole was born Mary Elizabeth Hanford in Salisbury, North Carolina"