Kay Ruthven Hagan ( ), born
May 26, 1953 ) is the junior United States Senator from North Carolina 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
in the 2008
United States Senate election
. She is the second female senator
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
Early life and education
born in Shelby, North
Carolina, to Joe, a tire salesman, and Jeanette (née Chiles) Ruthven, a
Both her father and her
older brother served in the Navy
most of her childhood in Lakeland, Florida, of which her father later became mayor. She also spent summers
on her grandparents' farm in Chesterfield,
South Carolina, where she would help string tobacco
and harvest watermelons.
earliest political activity was as a child placing bumper stickers
on cars for her uncle,
and U.S. Senator Lawton
. In the 1970s, she was an intern at the Capitol, operating an elevator that
carried senators, including her uncle, to and from the
attended Florida State
University, earning a Bachelor's
degree, and Wake Forest University, 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.
. They married and she moved to Greensboro,
North Carolina, where the Hagan family lived.
entered private practice as an attorney
North Carolina National
(now Bank of America
eventually rising to become Vice
in the estates and trust division. Upon the birth of
her first child, she left the bank to become a stay-at-home mother.
served as the Guilford County manager for Jim Hunt's
1992 and 1996 gubernatorial
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 Technology ,Tilden attended Duke University and will be attending medical school, and Carrie studied business
at the University of North Carolina-Chapel
Hagan's husband, a transaction lawyer, is
worth between $10.7 million and $40 million.
Hagan was first elected to the North Carolina General
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
Serving five terms in the General Assembly, she was the chairwoman
of that body's Appropriations Committee
and Pensions, Retirement & Aging Committee
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
, that two independent sources had reported that
Hagan would, in fact, run. Hagan made her candidacy official on
defeated investment banker Jim Neal of
Hill, podiatrist Howard Staley of Chatham
County, Lexington truck driver Duskin Lassiter, and Lumberton attorney Marcus Williams in the May 2008 Democratic
Hagan at a Democratic campaign rally
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
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
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
). Hagan trounced Dole in the state's five
largest counties—Mecklenburg, Wake, Guilford, Forsyth and Cumberland.
She also did very well in the eastern part
of the state, actually outperforming Obama in that region.
Hagan's victory returned Jesse Helms
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-Salem.
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
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
In late October, the Dole campaign released a television ad which
stated that the leader of the Godless Americans PAC
had held "a
in Kay Hagan's honor."
The ad showed sound bites
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 Carolina 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
Hagan, a member of First Presbyterian Church
Greensboro and a former Sunday school
teacher, condemned the ad as "fabricated and pathetic."
also filed a lawsuit in Wake County 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
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
as "[setting] the low mark in
negative political campaigning."
Hagan differs from the Democratic Party on the issue of FDA
regulation of the
industry—Hagan opposes the
legislation, which was cosponsored in the 110th Congress
by Barack Obama.
Lorillard Tobacco Company is based
in her hometown of Greensboro, North
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.
- Hagan Davis Mangum Barrett Langley Hale PLLC - Who
- Kraushaar, Josh. Dole still keeping the faith.
October 29, 2008.
- Brown, Campbell. Commentary: Mudslinging to get
elected. CNN.com. October 29, 2008.
- Bob Dole Defends "Godless" TV Ad.
Small Business VoIP. November 1, 2008.
- KayHagan.com. Kay on Dole Ad Attacking Her Christian Faith: A
Fabricated, Pathetic Ad. October 30, 2008.
- Dole Sued for 'Godless' Attack Ad,
ABC News. October 30,
- Dole challenger irate over suggestion she is
'godless'. CNN.com. October 30, 2008.
- Senator-elect Hagan drops suit over 'godless' TV
Campbell. Commentary: Mudslinging to get
elected. CNN.com. October 29, 2008.
- Frank, James. Dole 'Godless' ad shows progress, sort
of. Chicago Tribune. October 31, 2008.
- Dole's desperate turn to Big Lie
advertising. The Charlotte Observer. Oct. 30,
- As election nears, negative ads a
distraction. Asheville Citizen-Times. October 30,
- Editorial: Dole’s attack on Hagan’s faith
drives heated campaign lower. Greensboro News & Record.
October 30, 2008.
- ELIZABETH DOLE ATTACKS KAY HAGAN´S CHRISTIAN
FAITH. AmericanChronicle.com. November 02, 2008.
- Dole’s new ads set the low mark in negative political
campaigning. The Fayetteville Observer.
October 15, 2008.