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Hagan unseats Dole in U.S. Senate race

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/597/story/299191.html Hagan unseats Dole in U.S. Senate race By David Perlmutt dperlmutt@charlotteobserver.com Posted:
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2008
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      Hagan unseats Dole in U.S. Senate race
      By David Perlmutt
      Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2008

      N.C. Sen. Kay Hagan has unseated U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole in a Senate campaign that was bitterly fought and drew national attention.

      The Associated Press, FOX News and NBC declared Hagan the winner a little more than an hour after polls closed in North Carolina.

      The AP's call was based on an analysis of voter interviews, conducted for the AP by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

      Hagan was a little-known state senator from Greensboro when she entered the race to unseat Dole a year ago. But Democrats, eager to reach a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, rushed to her aid with millions of dollars in advertising that tarnished Dole's name and left voters with the impression she was entrenched in Washington, and ineffective and out of touch with the state.

      The loss for Dole, from a well-known political family, likely ends a political career that included two postings in Republican cabinets and a run for the White House. She'll leave the senate after one term.

      With 10 of 100 counties reporting, Hagan had 1.3 million votes, or 53.7 percent, to Dole's 1,055,047 votes, or 43.2 percent. Libertarian Christopher Cole has 72,226 votes, or 2.9 percent.

      Dole, 72, who was elected to the Senate in 2002, is the wife of former longtime U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who lost a bid for the Presidency in 1996 to Bill Clinton.

      Before coming to the Senate, Dole served as an aide in the Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, including Secretary of Transportation under Reagan and Secretary of Labor with Bush. She left politics during most of the 1990s, serving as president of the American Red Cross before making an unsuccessful bid for President in 2000.

      Hagan's uncle was Lawton Chiles, a legendary Senate figure from Florida. She served as an intern in Congress in the 1970s, getting to know figures such as Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy.

      Still, Hagan, 55, was little-known outside Greensboro and Raleigh until recent years. She worked as an attorney for NationsBank (now Bank of America) from 1978 to 1988 and was elected to the N.C. Senate in 2000.

      Their race has been bitter from the start, with television ads on both sides grabbing plenty of attention.

      The Dole camp was angered by a Hagan ad featuring two elderly men, discussing the incumbent's low ranking of effectiveness in the Senate. "She's 93," one man says in the ad, referring to Dole's ranking. Dole supporters said the ad was a shot at the Senator's age.

      The Dole campaign countered with a series of ads that claimed Hagan had ties to the oil and gas industry.

      The negative ads reached a climax last week, with the Dole campaign aired a commercial criticizing Hagan for attending a political fund raiser at the home of a man who serves as adviser to a pro-athiest group. The ad ended with a picture of Hagan and a woman's voice saying, "There is no God."

      Hagan countered that she is an active member of her Presbyterian church and a Sunday school teacher.

      Dole's strident advertising campaign was at odds with her style, which is very much 1950s North Carolina. She is always smartly dressed and typically displays a get-more-bees-with-honey style of graciousness. But friends say her accommodating style belies a strong drive to succeed. She is a graduate of Duke University and Harvard Law School.

      "She is somebody who in early life decided that she wanted to be in public service and to succeed in everything she undertook," said Wyndham Robertson, a former UNC vice president who grew up with Dole.

      "I've had to break a few (glass ceilings) as I came long," Dole said at a political rally last month in High Point.

      Hagan is an exercise fanatic who loves yoga, Pilates and early-morning runs. She worked with the YWCA, the arts council and the Triad Leadership Network in the Greensboro area before getting involved in politics. Hagan was chair of Jim Hunt's Guilford County gubernatorial campaigns in 1992 and '96, and Hunt recruited her to run for the state Senate in 1998.

      "What drew me to her was her involvement in the community," Hunt said. "(She was) just a real dynamo."

      Cole, the Libertarian in the race, campaigned on a platform of abolishing the federal income tax, limiting military intervention in Iraq and elsewhere, and eliminating some wage-and-hour laws to reduce illegal immigration. This was his ninth run for public office. He is 44 and lives in Charlotte.

      "My qualification is that I'm a working man," Cole said. "That means I share with most of the population the consequences of government. I have to work harder in order to pay taxes. I have to be afraid for my safety because the government has provoked terrorism around the world."

      McClatchy Newspapers' Jim Morrill, Rob Christensen and David Ingram contributed.
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