Biden touts Hagan at Chapel Hill fundraiser

jfrank@newsobserver.comNovember 15, 2013 

— Vice President Joe Biden on Friday avoided the political firestorm engulfing the federal health care law, instead touting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan as a lawmaker who can work across the aisle amid the gridlock in Washington.

Biden spoke at a fundraiser for the Democratic incumbent that drew 160 people to the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. He emphasized “that it’s critically important that ... Kay wins this race” and warned that if Republicans win both chambers of Congress, they would push drastic budget cuts to education, Medicare and other popular programs.

Introducing Biden, Hagan likewise avoided the troubles with the federal health care law, even as her opponents continued to highlight the number of times she echoed the White House in saying Americans could keep their current health coverage if they wanted.

The fundraiser framed a problematic political picture for Hagan – standing her next to the White House even as the health care troubles erode her once-solid lead against Republican rivals in her 2014 re-election bid.

She pivoted to focus on secretive political groups attacking her and the controversial policies pushed by the Republican-led state legislature, noting new laws restricting abortion, voting, jobless benefits and more.

It’s an attack on her main Republican challenger, House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is getting support from Republican strategist Karl Rove.

“For those of us in North Carolina, we saw firsthand what the Koch brothers and Karl Rove’s foot soldiers in Raleigh are willing to do to push their fringe agenda,” she said, mentioning the recent ads against her from outside conservative groups. “These guys are trying so hard to take my seat because they had great results with fringe, ultraconservative legislation that I have opposed.

“They want a politician whose strings they can pull to promote the same dangerous policies in Washington.”

Tillis campaign manager Jordan Shaw said Hagan is trying to change the subject “away from the fact that she spent an afternoon cozying up yet again to the Obama administration.”

“It’s a desperate attempt to dodge the fact that she has apparently misled North Carolinians on the implications of Obamacare for years,” he said.

Another Republican rival, Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, on Friday said Hagan should resign effective immediately, suggesting she knew that people wouldn’t be able to keep their health coverage under the law. A Hagan spokeswoman said the accusation is untrue.

A day earlier, Hagan was critical of President Barack Obama’s move to allow people to keep their current insurance for one more year, saying it didn’t go far enough. She endorsed a bill sponsored by Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, that would allow people to keep their current policies for good.

“Americans who have health insurance that they like should be able to keep it,” Hagan said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction ... but a one-year fix is not enough, and we need to do more.”

Biden criticized North Carolina leaders for not expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law and made a passing reference to the Republican takeover in Raleigh. “You lead and you lead the South and Middle Atlantic states and then you go through a period of what you have in Raleigh right now,” he said. “But you always come back. You always come back better.”

Biden expressed hope that the Republican Party would move away from the tea party. “Your father’s Republican Party is trying to come back,” he said. “You are going to see the Republican Party wrestle back eventually to a mainstream conservative position, and that’s good. We need a strong Republican Party. Because we have to have somebody we can look across the aisle and make a deal with.”

Turning to Hagan, he added, “I can think of nobody better to be there to extend the hand on the other side when that happens than Kay Hagan.”

The top ticket for the fundraiser cost $10,000 and included a photo and special host reception. The money will go to Hagan’s joint fundraising committee with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has higher donation limits than her campaign committee.

Earlier in the day, Biden appeared at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Charlotte for 15 people at the home of Bert Scott and Liz Fender.

Frank: 919-829-4698

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