Kay Hagan has been a disappointment to many voters who sent her to the U.S. Senate six years ago – and to this editorial board, which recommended her.
She has done about the minimum you’d expect from a U.S. senator, with few if any notable legislative achievements. She has a chronic reluctance to take firm positions on controversial issues, leaving voters wondering what she believes in and will act upon.
Her challenger in this election has few such inhibitions. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis has a history of staking out firm policy positions and following them up with legislative action. Although he occasionally tries to run from that record, he generally is forthright and clear about where he stands on issues.
It’s those positions that are the problem, and they are why North Carolina voters should send Hagan back to Washington and hope for something better.
Since he ascended to N.C. House leadership in 2011, Tillis has consistently shepherded legislation and supported policies that are bad for North Carolinians.
He harshly cut off long-term employment benefits for tens of thousands of unemployed North Carolinians, forcing them and not businesses to pay the long-term price for unemployment funds the state owed the federal government.
He proudly rejected a federal Medicaid expansion in the state, lamely pointing to structural problems in the state Medicaid program that could have been fixed while still providing medical coverage to hundreds of thousands of needy N.C. residents.
He irresponsibly pushed through significant tax cuts that mostly benefit corporations and the wealthy, but have left North Carolina with a revenue shortfall that threatens other priorities across the state.
He attempted to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides critical health screenings to women, as well as education that helps prevent unwanted pregnancies.
He also helped pass intrusive abortion legislation, parts of which were struck down in court, as well as a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage. Even now, he stubbornly refuses to accept that the U.S. Supreme Court says such amendments unconstitutionally discriminate against gays.
Tillis is, however, a friend to corporations and the wealthy, whom he believes will create jobs if they receive tax breaks and other benefits. That philosophy is not borne out by history, and it will hurt North Carolina, as it has other states. It’s the wrong philosophy to send to Washington.
We hope that Sen. Hagan, if reelected, will grow in her second term. As a senator who’s more moderate than most, Hagan has an opportunity with other moderates to bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans at a time when Washington needs that badly. At the least, she needs to accept that while North Carolina is a difficult, divided state to represent, it deserves a senator who is not perpetually fearful of upsetting half the state’s voting population.
That means being a leader. We recommend voters give her another chance to show she is up to it.