Hagan, Tillis trade familiar lines in first Senate debate - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Hagan, Tillis trade familiar lines in first debate of Senate campaign

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Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. Thom Tillis met for their first debate of the Senatorial campaign (Source: NCAB/UNC-TV) Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. Thom Tillis met for their first debate of the Senatorial campaign (Source: NCAB/UNC-TV)

Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. Thom Tillis faced off Wednesday night for the first debate of the hotly contested U.S. Senate race.

It did not take long for both candidates to claim the other is out of touch with what's best for North Carolina, using many of the same accusations and charges heard in political ads leading up to this event.

​Sen. Hagan's message, heard early and repeated often, was that public education in North Carolina has suffered under Tillis' leadership in the General Assembly.

"He has given tax cuts to the wealthy and he is paying for it by gutting education, $500 million from our education system," Sen. Hagan said early in the hour-long debate.

"We passed this year, one of the largest pay increases for teachers in the last generation," Rep. Tillis responded. "We were able to do that because of the hard decisions we made when we came in to clean up a lot of the mess Kay Hagan left behind when she went from Raleigh to Washington."

While Sen. Hagan put Rep. Tillis on the defensive about his tenure in the state capitol, the state House Speaker said the incumbent simply hasn't gotten enough done since first taking office in 2008.

"You can't vote 95 percent of the time with President Obama and say you're moderate or independent," Rep. Tillis charged.  "The only instance of independence in Kay Hagan over the past six years is independence from the citizens of North Carolina."

"I've told the President we need to build the Keystone pipeline," came the response from Sen. Hagan. "I've voted against my own party's budget when there were too deep of cuts to our military."

The two candidates continued sparring after the debate in the so-called "spin room", where Hagan said there's a clear choice for voters in this race.

"Me representing North Carolina, putting middle class first, being sure that we can have an economy that works for everyone, and Speaker Tillis, his constantly siding with the special interests and with the wealthy," was Sen. Hagan's charge to reporters.

For his part, Rep. Tillis said Sen. Hagan has already had her chance in Congress.

"Kay Hagan has failed the people of North Carolina," he said after the debate. "She went to Washington promising one thing and she's done another."

The debate was certainly not the last word in this election that promises to intensify every day between now and November 4.

The candidates will meet again at UNC-TV on Tuesday, October 7, followed by their final scheduled face-to-face meeting two days later in the WECT-TV Studios. Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh will take part in that final forum.

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