It is almost over. By Wednesday, you’ll be able to turn on your TV without getting blasted by ads promoting or slamming Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan or her Republican opponent, state House Speaker Thom Tillis.
Total spending in the North Carolina race topped $100 million last week, putting it on track to be the costliest Senate race ever. About two-thirds of the money has come from outside groups, much of it spent on TV ads that are relentlessly negative about one candidate or the other. The Center for Public Integrity estimates that the race generated more than 11,000 ads in the third week of October alone.
All that invective pouring into North Carolina living rooms has not moved one candidate ahead of the other in this deadlocked race, but it has been effective in shaping one opinion – it has soured North Carolinians on politics and both these politicians. It’s not entirely the candidates’ fault. If the Supreme Court’s ruling hadn’t opened the floodgates to outside political spending, the run of ads would have been less intense, the candidates less vilified and voters less irritated by the pummeling.
But at the end of the TV blitz is an election. Voters will have to choose. Our choice is Kay Hagan.We wish we could say the senator earned our support by her advocacy, but this race full of money has been bereft of real issues, ideas or solutions. Hagan has made the race less about governing the nation and more about Tillis’ role in shaping the dismal record of the state legislature.
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Tillis has run mostly against President Obama. When he does focus on his actual opponent, he talks about what she hasn’t done. In the contest’s second debate, he asked of Hagan, “Tell me what you’re proud of. Tell me what you’ve done. Tell me the promises you’ve fulfilled. That’s what this election’s about.”
It was a telling summation of the race’s lack of content in a year when issues are lacking in races across the nation. These midterms are being called “an election about nothing.”
But beyond the vacuous ads and the candidates’ talking points, this race really is about something. Indeed, it’s about two things.
• No. 1, it’s about keeping a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. A Republican takeover will intensify the standoff between the president and congressional Republicans. It will generate efforts to cut off funding and produce bills booby-trapped against vetoes. That would be bad for government, bad for the economy and bad for a nation already discouraged by the slowness of the economic recovery and Congress’ lack of action.
• No. 2, it’s about North Carolina. Tillis presents himself as one who drove a wave of conservative legislation through the General Assembly. Those changes included tax cuts that overwhelmingly favor corporations and the wealthy, neglect of education funding, new limits on voting rights, blockage of Medicaid expansion and a fast-track for fracking. The legislature’s actions trampled on North Carolina’s tradition of moderate governance and its commitment to education.
Tillis’ idea of what government should do is that it should do less. “It’s very simple: Government needs to get out of the way,” he said in the second debate.
What Tillis has done is turn government away from its responsibilities and obligations, especially with regard to children, the poor and the unemployed. Now there’s a hole in the state budget, schools struggling to pay for their rising costs, hospitals unnecessarily burdened with indigent care for people who could be on Medicaid and large swaths of the state’s population who feel unrepresented among those who control the legislature.
That is a record that needs to be reversed in Raleigh, not duplicated in Washington.
Hagan presents herself as one open to ideas from the left and the right and she touts her rating from The National Journal as the “most moderate senator.” Tillis says that’s not the case. He says Hagan is a “rubber stamp” for President Obama.
The truth is that Hagan – often to the frustration of liberals – is a middle-of-the-road type. And she’s strong in two areas that Republicans favor and that are important for North Carolina’s economy: the military and banking. As a member of the Senate’s Committee on Armed Services, she has been a strong advocate for the state’s military bases and veterans. As a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and a former employee of North Carolina National Bank, a predecessor of Charlotte-based Bank of America, she understands the needs of the banking industry but also stands up for consumers.
Hagan is not a famous or fiery senator, but she is a hard-working and competent one. She has served with dedication in the state Senate and the U.S. Senate.
Hagan’s priorities are in step with an enduring approach to governance in North Carolina. She is attentive to the needs of businesses and respects the role of the military and the service of veterans, and she is compassionate toward the vulnerable and the struggling. Ultimately in this race, a vote for Hagan is a vote for North Carolina.