Some female voters not OK with Tillis' use of 'Kay'

Posted September 4, 2014

— Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis scored few points with female voters during his Wednesday night debate with Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan by repeatedly calling her by her first name.

In political debates, opponents usually use each other's titles. Hagan, for example, consistently addressed Tillis as "Speaker Tillis" because of his position in the state House.

Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said the senator wasn't offended by Tillis calling her "Kay" instead of referring to her by her title, but she noticed others were.

"We saw some of the reaction on social media, on Twitter, on Facebook, from women voters who didn't quite appreciate the tone he took with the senator," Weiner said Thursday. "I think, more than the tone, North Carolinians are concerned about what his policies have done to middle-class families and women in North Carolina."

Still, some debate-watchers accused Tillis on social media of trying to belittle Hagan.

JoAnn Samuels Wood said on WRAL's Facebook page she didn't think much of either candidate. "But if I had to vote, I'd vote for Hagan due to Tillis' obvious disrespect by calling her 'Kay' in lieu of the Senator Hagan. I was raised to respect persons in position whether I agreed with them or not."

Tillis spokeswoman Meghan Burris said he usually calls people by their first names.

"Thom is not keen on pomp and formality and talks to everyone on a first-name basis," Burris said in a statement. "He prefers to have everyone call him Thom, but he will be happy to refer to her as 'Senator Hagan' if that is her preference."

Burris also pointed out that Tillis has known Hagan since they served in the General Assembly together in 2007-08 and that he said during the debate that he thinks Hagan is a good person.

Republicans nationally have had trouble wooing female voters, and polls show Tillis has a large gender gap to overcome in the Senate race.

North Carolina State University political science professor Steven Greene said that gap probably extends to the debate, too.

"I think most of women and men seeing the debate differently is the fact hat women are already more inclined to be Democratic and men inclined to be more Republican," Greene said, adding that he didn't find Tillis' references to Hagan to be condescending.

"I think he would have done that if it was John Hagan, not just Kay Hagan. That was my sense, but maybe that’s because I’m a white male,” he said.

Greene said he doesn't think the debate will change many minds, but he said the small percentage of undecided voters that both campaigns are chasing are disproportionately women.

"Everything suggests that this is going to be a particularly close election, and you don't want to take anybody for granted," he said.


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  • careybarnes Sep 10, 2014

    He called her "Kay". Is that all that you got out of the debate? You didn't listen to the issues? If that is the only reason to vote for a candidate, and not on the issues, maybe you shouldn't vote.

  • Thomas Williams Sep 9, 2014
    user avatar

    Well, la tee da, they are a bunch of thin skinned libs I suppose.

  • Forthe Newssite Sep 9, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    OH it was most DEFINITELY deliberate! You can take that to the bank. I being as how he's a politician you can be 100% certain that he KNOW the proper etiquette when addressing her, he just chose to ignore it and be condescending. He would not call another senator by their first name in a debate, but he did it to her over and over and over.

    And the simple fact that he in a member of the GOP proves to me that they ALL hold women in some disregard....Can we please get rid of them quickly before they take us back to the dark ages.

  • goobnav Sep 9, 2014


    What's disrespectful is the current "Senator" not owning up for the Debt she left the state when she went to spend more but, now on the Federal level.

    BTW, the Federal government has no responsibility in funding education but all those commercials infer that "Senator" Hagan has control over Education funding in the state. She doesn't neither does Senator Burr.

    How about the lottery bills she help write in the State that only "build" schools or give "scholarships", why didn't she write them or support a different bill that would have had the lottery paying for TEACHERS!!!!

    People, disrespect is from both sides, only the bias media makes it look like one side is better than the other. Try reading and just laugh at Mainstream comedy, I mean media.

  • juliomercado Sep 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Your reaction to her being called "Kay" AND your post here prove my point. The country is in a tailspin, heading BACK to IRAQ. We have no southern border or any deportation efforts at all. The economy is still on the 'lets make the rich richer while the working class loses ground' mode. Our national debt is fast approaching $18,000,000,000,000 and you want to whine about her being called Kay? Thank you for proving my point that women on the whole are emotional voters. We don't need emotion, we need answers. Kay has done nothing for NC but tow the party line for the Democrats.

  • carolinarox Sep 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I am a woman and I care that Speaker Tillis has so little respect for the position he covets that he cannot address the current holder of that position by her proper title, which is Senator Hagan. I care that Speaker Tillis put party and politics before the well being of the citizens of NC and voted not only against the medicaid expansion but also against creating a state healthcare exchange which would have created thousands of well paying jobs. I am among the 53% who pay federal income taxes (a higher percentage on my 5 figure income than Mitt Romney's 8 figure income in 2012) and I would like to see some of my tax dollars come back to our state, but THom and his buddies disagree. THom should realize that the average NC citizen doesn't have all of this dark money from the Kochs coming in.

  • meeper Sep 9, 2014

    Look how long this has been on WRAL's website. Do you think they have an agenda?
    How come we never read anything negative about Kay Hagan on this website?

  • Sherrill Craig Sep 9, 2014
    user avatar

    I am more interested in the content of the debate rather than this whole "Kay/Senator/Thom/Speaker" distraction. Get down to business, already. I need facts and figures and less stupidity.

  • ETG Sep 9, 2014

    This is still on home-page , time to let it go wral

  • tmstubbs63 Sep 9, 2014

    What a non-issue....really....is that something that would change a vote? If it does, then you are definitely a low-information voter....