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Kay Ruthven Hagan ( ), born May 26, 1953 ) is the junior United States Senator from North Carolinamarker and a member of the Democratic Party. Before her election, she was a five-term member of the North Carolina Senate.

Hagan defeated first-term Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole in the 2008 United States Senate election. She is the second female senator from the state of North Carolina, and the first female Democrat to represent the state in the Senate. She is also the first woman to defeat a female incumbent in a Senate election, and her election makes North Carolina the first state to have elected female senators from more than one political party.

Early life and education

Hagan was born in Shelby, North Carolinamarker, to Joe, a tire salesman, and Jeanette (née Chiles) Ruthven, a homemaker. Both her father and her older brother served in the Navy. She spent most of her childhood in Lakeland, Floridamarker, of which her father later became mayor. She also spent summers on her grandparents' farm in Chesterfield, South Carolinamarker, where she would help string tobacco and harvest watermelons. Hagan's earliest political activity was as a child placing bumper stickers on cars for her uncle, Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Lawton Chiles. In the 1970s, she was an intern at the Capitolmarker, operating an elevator that carried senators, including her uncle, to and from the Chamber.

She attended Florida State Universitymarker, earning a Bachelor's degree, and Wake Forest Universitymarker, where she earned a Juris Doctor and also met her husband Chip Hagan, a Vietnam veteran attending Wake Forest with help from the G.I. Bill. They married and she moved to Greensboro, North Carolinamarker, where the Hagan family lived. She then entered private practice as an attorney for North Carolina National Bank (now Bank of America), eventually rising to become Vice President in the estates and trust division. Upon the birth of her first child, she left the bank to become a stay-at-home mother. She also served as the Guilford Countymarker manager for Jim Hunt's 1992 and 1996 gubernatorial campaigns.

Personal life

Hagan has three children with her husband, Jeanette, Tilden, and Carrie, all three of whom attended private schools. Jeanette studied geology at California Institute of Technologymarker ,Tilden attended Duke Universitymarker and will be attending medical school, and Carrie studied business at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hillmarker. Hagan's husband, a transaction lawyer, is worth between $10.7 million and $40 million.

State legislator

Hagan was first elected to the North Carolina General Assembly as state senator for the 32nd district in 1998; due to redistricting, her constituency later became the 27th district. During the 1998 campaign, her uncle Lawton Chiles walked the district with her. She represented most of central Guilford County, including most of Greensboro.

Serving five terms in the General Assembly, she was the chairwoman of that body's Appropriations Committee and Pensions, Retirement & Aging Committee, and supported legislation raising teachers' salaries and increasing funding for early childhood education. She was known as a "pro-business Democrat" in the state Senate.

2008 U.S. Senate campaign

After Hagan first decided not to run against Elizabeth Dole, the Swing State Project announced on October 26, 2007, that two independent sources had reported that Hagan would, in fact, run. Hagan made her candidacy official on October 30, 2007. She defeated investment banker Jim Neal of Chapel Hillmarker, podiatrist Howard Staley of Chatham Countymarker, Lexingtonmarker truck driver Duskin Lassiter, and Lumbertonmarker attorney Marcus Williams in the May 2008 Democratic primary.

Hagan at a Democratic campaign rally in 2008
Hagan was initially given little chance against Dole, and she was recruited to the race only after more prominent North Carolina Democrats such as Governor Mike Easley, former Governor Jim Hunt and Congressman Brad Miller all declined to compete against Dole. However, most polling from September onward showed Hagan slightly ahead of Dole, although Hagan had previously fallen behind by as many as 17 points at one point. Hagan was helped by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's aggressive push for North Carolina's 15 electoral votes and by 527 groups lobbying on her behalf. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee expended more money in North Carolina than in any other state during the 2008 election season.

In the November election, Hagan won by an unexpectedly wide margin, winning 53 percent of the vote to Dole's 44 percent—the largest margin of victory for a Senate race in North Carolina in 30 years, and the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent Senator in the 2008 cycle. It has been speculated that the wider-than-expected margin was partly due to anger over Dole's negative tactics in the latter stages of the race (see "Godless" ad below). Hagan trounced Dole in the state's five largest counties—Mecklenburgmarker, Wakemarker, Guilfordmarker, Forsythmarker and Cumberlandmarker. She also did very well in the eastern part of the state, actually outperforming Obama in that region.

Hagan's victory returned Jesse Helms's former Senate seat to the Democrats; Helms held the seat from 1973 until Dole won in the 2002 election. Ironically, Helms had won largely by dominating the eastern part of the state, a region Hagan dominated in 2008 as mentioned above. It also means that North Carolina now has two Senators from the Piedmont Triad; senior Senator Richard Burr is from Winston-Salemmarker.

Husband's dealings

In October 2008, The Politico reported that Hagan's husband Chip Hagan III, a former Democratic county leader, had been a member of 1,000-member Greensboro Country Club for years, despite the club's de facto segregation and refusal to admit black members. Hagan herself was not a member of the club. Greensboro Country Club admitted its first black member in 1995. Over the summer, Chip Hagan had also been criticized by Republicans for part ownership of domestic oil wells as gasoline prices increased for consumers.

"Godless" ad

In late October, the Dole campaign released a television ad which stated that the leader of the Godless Americans PAC had held "a secret fundraiser in Kay Hagan's honor." The ad showed sound bites of group members espousing their views, then stated that Kay Hagan "hid from cameras, took Godless money... what did Hagan promise in return?" It ended with a photo of Hagan and a female voice like Hagan's saying, "There is no God." The ad aired across North Carolinamarker Hagan's campaign says the ad sought to put inflammatory words in their candidate's mouth; The Dole campaign says the ad correctly shows who Hagan will associate with in order to raise campaign funds. On November 1, Bob Dole also defended it, asserting that "it never questions her faith," and that "the issue is why she was there. There's no question about her faith. I think it's [the ad's] fair game."

Hagan, a member of First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro and a former Sunday school teacher, condemned the ad as "fabricated and pathetic." Hagan also filed a lawsuit in Wake Countymarker Superior Court accusing Dole of defamation and libel. Following Hagan's victory, the lawsuit was dropped.

The ad met exceptionally strong criticism from the public as well as many local and several national media outlets. CNN's Campbell Brown said about the ad: "[A]mid all the attack ads on the airwaves competing to out-ugly one another, we think we've found a winner." The ad was described as "ridiculously outrageous," "indecent," a "gross misrepresentation," "worse than dishonest" and "beyond the bounds of acceptable political disagreement," among other harsh criticism. Another ad issued by the Dole campaign in mid-October 2008 was described by The Fayetteville Observer as "[setting] the low mark in negative political campaigning."

Senate career

Committee assignments

Political positions

Hagan differs from the Democratic Party on the issue of FDA regulation of the tobacco industry—Hagan opposes the legislation, which was cosponsored in the 110th Congress by Barack Obama. Lorillard Tobacco Company is based in her hometown of Greensboromarker, North Carolinamarker.

Hagan at first refused to take a position on the Wall Street bailout bill, but said she opposed it after the Senate passed the bill.

Hagan voted against a resolution to establish a national consumer credit usury rate.

On June 11 2009, Hagan was the only Democratic senator to vote against a bill that would allow the FDA to regulate one of North Carolina's most important industries, tobacco production.

Electoral history


  1. Hagan Davis Mangum Barrett Langley Hale PLLC - Who We Are
  2. [1]
  3. Kraushaar, Josh. Dole still keeping the faith. The Politico. October 29, 2008.
  4. Brown, Campbell. Commentary: Mudslinging to get elected. October 29, 2008.
  5. Bob Dole Defends "Godless" TV Ad. Small Business VoIP. November 1, 2008.
  6. Kay on Dole Ad Attacking Her Christian Faith: A Fabricated, Pathetic Ad. October 30, 2008.
  7. Dole Sued for 'Godless' Attack Ad, ABC News. October 30, 2008.
  8. Dole challenger irate over suggestion she is 'godless'⁠. October 30, 2008.
  9. Senator-elect Hagan drops suit over 'godless' TV ad.
  10. Brown, Campbell. Commentary: Mudslinging to get elected. October 29, 2008.
  11. Frank, James. Dole 'Godless' ad shows progress, sort of. Chicago Tribune. October 31, 2008.
  12. Dole's desperate turn to Big Lie advertising. The Charlotte Observer. Oct. 30, 2008.
  13. As election nears, negative ads a distraction. Asheville Citizen-Times. October 30, 2008.
  14. Editorial: Dole’s attack on Hagan’s faith drives heated campaign lower. Greensboro News & Record. October 30, 2008.
  16. Dole’s new ads set the low mark in negative political campaigning. The Fayetteville Observer. October 15, 2008.

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