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Hagan brings Senate fight to Dole’s hometown

By Steve Huffman
shuffman@salisburypost.com
Kay Hagan spoke to a group of local female leaders Monday, the meeting held almost in the backyard of the home of the woman she’s challenging for a U.S. Senate seat.
Well, the front yard, more precisely.
Hagan, a Democratic state senator looking to unseat U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, addressed the group of 15 or so at the home of Mary Miller James. The house is located on Fulton Street, almost across the street from Dole’s residence.
The gathering’s close proximity to Dole’s house prompted a few chuckles among those in attendance. Several mentioned the small amount of time Dole, a Republican, spends in her hometown of Salisbury, or anywhere in North Carolina, for that matter.
State Rep. Lorene Coates, a Democrat, said she’d financed a poll in late September where the leanings of voters were measured.
Coates said, “In my district, where Liddy Dole supposedly lives,” only 30 percent of the voters queried supported Dole. By comparison, 42 percent backed Hagan. The remainder were undecided.
Another woman thanked Hagan for Monday’s visit, then told her, “I hope that when you’re elected you won’t forget about us in North Carolina as some have,” a not-so-subtle jab at Dole.
Hagan promised she wouldn’t.
She said while some have said the Democrats initially threw her into the race as something of a sacrificial lamb ó Dole long considered one of the most powerful women in the country ó she never felt that way.
Hagan, a Greensboro resident and attorney, noted she’s been a successful state senator for 10 years and has been a part of numerous bills passed in Raleigh.
“I’m in this to win,” she said. “I didn’t file to walk away from my seat in the (state) senate.”
Polls have indicated the race between Hagan and Dole is in virtually a dead heat, though Hagan insisted Monday her polls show she’s leading.
Hagan promised that if she’s elected, she’ll make herself accessible to those who elected her.
“Constituent service is first and foremost,” Hagan said. “I hear every day from people who can’t get in to see Elizabeth Dole. That will definitely change when I’m elected.”
Hagan said the federal budget operates at an annual deficit of $450 billion, a staggering figure that drops the nation further and further into a black hole of debt.
“No one could manage a family budget like this,” she said, noting that help in the Senate is needed.
Hagan told the females in her audience that issues pertaining to women’s health need funding for research. She also referred to issues of rape.
Not too many years ago in North Carolina, Hagan said, a rape where the victim couldn’t identify her assailant was referred to as a “non-suspect rape.”
She said such rapes weren’t given the same priority as those where the assailant could be identified, with as many as 2,000 rape kits from “non-suspect rapes” sitting for years untested in police labs.
A Violence Against Women bill has helped address the issue, Hagan said.
“That needs full funding,” she said.
Hagan also introduced Lilly Ledbetter, an Alabama woman at the heart of one of the most controversial employment discrimination cases in history. It went to the U.S. Supreme Court before being decided that employers are protected from lawsuits over race or gender if the claims are based on decisions made by the employer 180 days or more ago.
Ledbetter and Hagan ripped Dole who, in April, voted against a bill known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Play Act of 2007. It would have allowed suits such as Ledbetter’s to stand.
“Guess who voted against it?” Ledbetter asked the women gathered Monday in Salisbury. “Liddy Dole.”
She paused, then continued.
“Liddy Dole thinks it’s perfectly fine (for women) to get paid 78 cents on a dollar,” Ledbetter said.
She said she’d made four trips to the U.S. Senate floor to testify.
Ledbetter’s case stemmed from her 19 years of work with the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Glasden, Ala.
She said she learned through an anonymous letter left in her company work box that males with less experience and education made more money for doing the same job she did.
“I had a better track record, I just wasn’t getting compensated for it,” Ledbetter said. “When a person is not compensated fairly, you feel like a second-class citizen for the rest of your life.”
Hagan said she learned of Ledbetter’s plight and marveled at all the woman has been through.
“I tell you, she’s gone through an incredible 10 years,” Hagan said.

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