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Stories and features about North Carolina candidates, voters, and the politics of the 2014 mid-term elections. Polls are open across N.C. until 7:30 p.m. on election day, November 4.

Hagan, Tillis Spar In Third Debate While Haugh Adds Fresh Perspective

3rd senatorial debate
Jim Morrill
Charlotte Observer via Twitter

Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis held their third and final debate in Wilmington last night.

Much of their rhetoric was familiar from their campaign ads and talking points from the first two debates. But this time they were joined by a third candidate,  Libertarian Sean Haugh, who added a fresh perspective to the format. 

The debate was held at WECT television in Wilmington. Haugh sat in the middle of the set, flanked on both sides by Hagan and Tillis. The first question posed by Anchor Jon Evans has been tossed around by both campaigns since the second debate on Tuesday- how high a priority is it for candidates to attend committee meetings and legislative sessions. Tillis had the first turn. He repeated his charge from the second debate- that Hagan had missed meetings of the Armed Services Committee, which she serves on.

Tillis: "Senator Hagan’s missed more than half of those meetings. And we found out this week two days ago just after the debate that Senator Hagan put a cocktail fundraiser on Park Avenue ahead of a classified briefing where these threats were being discussed."

Tillis was referring to the threat of the Islamic State Group, the topic of much discussion in Washington. But Tillis himself missed some legislative floor sessions this summer at the General Assembly, which Hagan was quick to point out.

Hagan: "Speaker Tillis’s hometown newspaper has called on him to resign because of the number of days he missed at the General Assembly because he was fundraising. Our mission should be to eradicate these terrorists."

Hagan said she has chaired numerous hearings on the topic and voted to arm moderate Syrian rebels.

Libertarian Sean Haugh said he thought it was important to become as informed as possible about the Islamic State group, but he then cut to the chase about the specter of military involvement.

Haugh: "What we’re talking about here is committing ourselves to what’s estimated to be another 30 years- really perpetual war- in this region. And we need to have other kinds of solutions and bring other kinds of voices into Washington that are going to give us options besides just trying to bomb all of our problems out of existence since that’s obviously not working."


Next, the moderator moved on to dueling ethics claims by both the Hagan and Tillis campaigns. The response from the candidates was similar- each says the other benefited financially from certain votes.

Same-Sex Marriage

When it came to the topic of same-sex marriage, Hagan and Tillis were very clear how they felt about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week not to hear appeals court decisions allowing gay marriage:

Hagan: "I did not support Amendment One that Speaker Tillis put on the ballot to ban gay marriage. And I think that after talking to businesses it has really hurt our economy by having that legislation in North Carolina."

Amendment One is the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2012. Sixty-one percent of those who went to the polls approved it; 38 percent did not. Tillis seemed eager to pivot from the topic of same-sex marriage and toward the economy.

Tillis: "Twenty-eight months ago, 60 percent of the people in North Carolina decided they wanted to define marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. Now Senator Hagan said it’s hurting the economy. Lemme tell you what’s hurting the economy. Senator Hagan’s vote for Obamacare and her rubber stamp for regulatory policies that are killing hundreds of thousands of jobs."

Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger have retained outside counsel to fight same-sex marriage in North Carolina. Hagan called that a waste of taxpayer dollars during last night’s debate.

When it came time for Haugh to weigh in on the matter, he came up with a classic Libertarian response.  

Haugh: "I believe that this is a very personal decision. It is not my position to judge anyone for who they love and how they wanna love them, as long as it is between consenting adults, of course I’m for gay marriage, and if you wanna get married, mazel tov, I wish you every happiness."

Other topics covered in last night’s debate touched on coastal issues, including dredging and beach renourishment; energy policy; and ways to fight the spread of the Ebola virus. There will be no more debates between Hagan and Tillis from here on out. Instead, expect lots of campaign ads, phone calls, and direct mail from now until November 4th.

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.
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