Politics & Government

Hillary Clinton, Kay Hagan make appeal to women during Charlotte rally

Democrat Hillary Clinton helped Sen. Kay Hagan put a spotlight on women’s issues – and women’s votes – at a Saturday rally in Charlotte.

Ten days before the Senate election, the star power of the likely presidential candidate helped Hagan draw one of her largest crowds. More than 1,000 people – campaign officials put the number at 1,800 – packed a Charlotte Convention Center ballroom.

“There is nothing more important to Kay than who turns out,” Clinton said. “You can always count on Kay. ... Now what’s important is whether Kay can count on you.”

Clinton’s appearance came as Hagan continues to be locked in a tight race with Republican Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House. The most expensive race in the country, it’s already flooded North Carolina homes with more than 90,000 TV ads.

Clinton, who has yet to announce her 2016 plans, joined Hagan in underscoring the senator’s support for issues that appeal to women, such as a minimum wage hike, education and Medicaid expansion. She also touted Hagan’s support for equal pay for women and ridiculed Tillis’ comments on the subject.

In a debate, Tillis said government should enforce existing laws, not adopt “some of the campaign gimmicks that are going to put more regulations and make it more difficult.”

“You have to ask yourself,” Clinton said. “Is it pro-family? Is it pro-North Carolina to say that equal pay for women is just a campaign gimmick? When I heard that I thought I’d misheard it. ... This is not just a women’s issue. This is a family issue. A fairness issue. An economic issue.”

In her own remarks, Hagan reminded listeners that Tillis supported a move to defund Planned Parenthood. She criticized his support of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which said private employers who offer employees health insurance can’t be forced to include contraceptives on the plans if they have a religious objection.

“It’s 2014, and a woman’s health care decision should be between a woman and her doctor,” Hagan said, “not a woman and her boss.”

Clinton, who never mentioned Tillis by name, amplified the appeal. “Reach out, particularly to every single woman you know,” she told the audience. “There is a concerted effort right now to turn the clock back.”

An Elon University Poll last month showed Hagan with a 19-point lead among women; last week, Public Policy Polling found her with a 12-point lead.

Both campaigns have run multiple ads featuring women. Hagan, who plans to campaign in Durham on Sunday with the president of Planned Parenthood, has a series targeted at Tillis’ efforts to defund that group.

The state GOP said the appearance of President Barack Obama’s former secretary of state reinforces Hagan’s ties to the president. “Even though Sen. Hagan won’t invite the president to North Carolina, her appearance with Hillary Clinton is another silent endorsement of his failed policies,” Executive Director Todd Poole said.