Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan officially filed for re-election in Raleigh yesterday.
She visited the state Board of Elections with her husband and campaign workers, who then stood behind her as she spoke with reporters about her race to keep her seat in the Senate.
Hagan was surrounded by photographers and videographers from the moment she entered the Board of Elections building in Raleigh.
"Good afternoon everybody," the senator said as she walked in the door.
They trailed her to a back room, where she moved from one desk to the next, filling out forms and signing papers.
Hagan asked "do you want me to sign this again?" An employee replied: "no, that’s just a copy and we’ll have you hold on to that."
It’s no surprise that such a simple procedure turned out to be a big media event. This U.S. Senate race is expected to be one of the most closely watched in the country. It could decide which party has control of the Senate in 2015. And as the incumbent senator fighting to keep her seat, Senator Hagan was ready for the spotlight. She didn’t name but clearly singled out interest groups like Americans for Prosperity, which has aired television commercials against her.
"They don’t care about our crumbling schools and our overworked teachers, and they are not a part of our community. They don’t know about our state or our values. But I’ve got one lesson for them that they’ll learn soon enough. Our state is not for sale," said Hagan.
There are several Republicans who want her seat:
- Ob-gyn Greg Brannon
- Baptist pastor Mark Harris
- Army veteran Heather Grant
- The state Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis
Tillis is seen as the establishment candidate. That’s why Senator Hagan made sure to criticize the agenda of the North Carolina legislature:
"In Raleigh, we saw them ram through a partisan special interest agenda that hurt NC families and violated our shared values, gutting unemployment insurance, throwing up new barriers at the ballot box, while expanding corporate money in politics, and weakening the disclosure standards for outside groups."
Hagan seems to be aiming her criticism at Tillis. But he first has to get through the Republican primary, where the vote could be split. When it comes time for the general election, Hagan will have to fight, no matter who her opponent is.
It’s just a very tough close race.
So says Gary Pearce, a veteran Democratic political strategist in Raleigh. "Most Senate races here, particularly when Democrats win Senate races in North Carolina, they tend to win very narrowly. She won a big margin in 2008, but of course she was helped by President Obama being on the ticket cause he brought out a lot of new voters."
Pearce says at this early stage, it’s hard to know whether the electorate will look the way it did in 2012 when President Obama almost won North Carolina, or whether it will resemble 2010, when the tea party drove lots of supporters to the polls. But no matter what kind of voters show up, this race is expected to be one of the most expensive in the country. And Republicans are gearing up for it, says Andy Taylor, a political scientist at N-C State.
"The amount of outside money and the amount of support that the Republican nominee gets is going to be largely a function of how confident Republicans are about having a good year nationally. And if you see the amount of money escalating, that’s probably bad news for Senator Hagan," says Taylor.
Still, Taylor says there’s always a chance national Republican groups could choose to focus more on other races. But November is a long way off. And with at least 7 million dollars in her campaign coffers, Senator Hagan is off to a running start.