Sen. Kay Hagan denounced Republican opponent Thom Tillis’ stands on women’s health and pay issues Wednesday, declaring herself “the only candidate with a record of standing up for women.”
Hagan is locked in a re-election race in which women figure prominently. She appeared at a Charlotte press conference with CEO Janet Colm of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central North Carolina.
State legislators cut off state and federal funding to Planned Parenthood in 2011, when Tillis was elected speaker of the N.C. House, and added new restrictions to abortions last year. The organization’s political arm plans to spend $3 million on Hagan’s behalf.
“Thom Tillis isn’t just outside the mainstream. He is simply too extreme, and now is the time to hold him responsible,” Colm said.
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Tillis has help from the North Carolina Values Campaign and the Women Speak Out Political Action Committee, which last week announced a $620,000 ad campaign against Hagan’s position on late-term abortions.
Hagan attacked Tillis for legislators’ refusal to expand Medicaid, for his support during the Republican primary of a “personhood” amendment that would give fertilized human eggs legal rights, and for backing policies that she said could limit birth control. Tillis has said he believes women should have access to contraceptives.
“Thom Tillis has proven time and again that North Carolina women and their families are not a priority,” Hagan said.
Women in North Carolina earn 82 cents for every $1 men make, the National Women’s Law Center calculates. Hagan supports a wage-equality bill that has been repeatedly blocked by Senate Republicans. The N.C. House under Tillis buried a similar bill in committee in 2013.
Tillis says he supports equal pay for equal work but believes current law is sufficient.
“As a husband and father of a daughter in nursing school, Thom knows that our country still has a long way to go to achieve workplace fairness for women, and that’s why he believes the government should punish employers who discriminate,” campaign press secretary Meghan Burris said in a statement. “The partisan legislation supported by Sen. Hagan won’t solve the problem and would actually cost women jobs.”
As the Islamic State stirs turmoil and U.S. workers are exposed to the Ebola virus, Burris added, “it’s astonishing that Kay Hagan is launching false attacks against Thom to distract from her own failed record.”
Hagan commands one of the biggest margins of support among women of any of the races that will determine control of the Senate.
An Elon Poll conducted in September showed Hagan with a 52 percent to 33 percent lead among women, with strongest support from single or divorced women. Tillis maintained a 50 percent to 38 percent lead among men.
But the race appears to be tightening. A High Point University poll of likely voters, released Monday, found Tillis and Hagan tied at 40 percent with Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh at 7 percent. An Oct. 8 Rasmussen Reports poll found Hagan with a 48 percent to 46 percent lead over Tillis, a slip from a 45-39 percent advantage a month earlier.
“We’ve got great numbers. Looking forward, we’re 20 days out and we’ve got great support,” Hagan said. “The stakes are very high, and there’s a stark contrast between what I stand for and what Speaker Tillis stands for.”
Hagan criticized Tillis for successfully intervening in two federal lawsuits over North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban, which two federal judges have ruled unconstitutional. An order issued Wednesday allows Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger to appeal one of those rulings.
“Even Gov. McCrory said that’s a dead-end issue, and it’s been decided not only by the 4th Circuit (Court of Appeals) but by the fact that the Supreme Court said we’re not going to hear these decisions,” Hagan said. “Once again, it’s Speaker Tillis wasting taxpayer dollars.”