Kay Hagan

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Kay Hagan
Kay Hagan official photo.jpg
United States Senator
from North Carolina
Assumed office
January 3, 2009
Serving with Richard Burr
Preceded by Elizabeth Dole
North Carolina State Senator
from the 27th district
In office
January 29, 2003 – January 3, 2009
Preceded by John Garwood
Succeeded by Don Vaughan
North Carolina State Senator
from the 32nd district
In office
January 27, 1999 – January 29, 2003
Preceded by John Blust
Succeeded by Linda Garrou
Personal details
Born Janet Kay Ruthven
(1953-05-26) May 26, 1953 (age 61)
Shelby, North Carolina
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Chip Hagan
Residence Greensboro
Alma mater Florida State University (B.A.)
Wake Forest University School of Law (J.D.)
Profession Attorney, Banker
Religion Presbyterian
Website www.hagan.senate.gov

Janet Kay Ruthven Hagan (/ˈhɡən/; born May 26, 1953) is the junior United States Senator from North Carolina, in office since January 2009. Previously she served in the North Carolina Senate from 1999 to 2009. She is a member of the Democratic Party.[1] Hagan is running for re-election in 2014 in what is considered one of the toughest reelection bids in the country.[2]

When Hagan defeated Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole in the 2008 United States Senate election, she became the first woman to defeat an incumbent woman in a Senate election.

Early life and education[edit]

Hagan was born Janet Kay Ruthven[3] in Shelby, North Carolina, the daughter of Jeanette (née Chiles), a homemaker, and Josie Perry "Joe" Ruthven, a tire salesman. Both her father and her older brother served in the U.S. Navy.[4] She spent most of her childhood in Lakeland, Florida. Leaving the tire business, her father branched out into real estate development, primarily focused on industrial warehouses and warehouse-centered business parks in the Lakeland and Polk County, Florida area. With business success came political engagement, in this case with the Democratic Party, with her father later becoming mayor of Lakeland.[5][6] To this day, the multigenerational Ruthven family remains one of the wealthiest and most politically influential families in Lakeland and Southwest Central Florida.

Hagan also spent summers on her grandparents' farm in Chesterfield, South Carolina, where she helped string tobacco and harvest watermelons.[1] As a child, Hagan engaged in her earliest political activity: placing bumper stickers on cars for her uncle, Lakeland native and U.S. Senator Lawton Chiles (D-FL), who later became Florida Governor following his service in the U.S. Senate. In the 1970s, she was an intern at the Capitol, operating an elevator that carried senators, including her uncle, to and from the Chamber.[1]

She later earned a B.A. degree from Florida State University in 1975 and a J.D. degree from the Wake Forest University School of Law in 1978, later pursuing a career as both an attorney and banker. While a student at Florida State, Hagan became a member of the Chi Omega women's fraternity.[7]

North Carolina legislature[edit]

Hagan was first elected to the North Carolina General Assembly as state senator for the 32nd district in 1998 (due to redistricting, her constituency later became the 27th district).[1] During the 1998 campaign, her uncle Lawton Chiles walked the district with her. She represented most of central Guilford County, including most of Greensboro.

U.S. Senate[edit]

2008 election[edit]

After Hagan first decided not to run against Elizabeth Dole,[8] the Swing State Project announced on October 26, 2007, that two independent sources had reported that Hagan would, in fact, run.[9] Hagan made her candidacy official on October 30, 2007.[10][11] She defeated investment banker Jim Neal of Chapel Hill, podiatrist Howard Staley of Chatham County, Lexington truck driver Duskin Lassiter, and Lumberton attorney Marcus Williams in the May 2008 Democratic primary.

Hagan at the Democratic campaign rally in 2008

Hagan was initially given little chance against Dole, and she was recruited to the race only after more prominent North Carolina Democrats such as Governor Mike Easley, former Governor Jim Hunt and Congressman Brad Miller all declined to compete against Dole.[12] However, most polling from September onward showed Hagan slightly ahead of Dole, although Hagan had previously fallen behind by as many as 17 points at one point.[13] Hagan was helped by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's aggressive push for North Carolina's 15 electoral votes[14][15] and by 527 groups lobbying on her behalf.[12] The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee expended more money in North Carolina than in any other state during the 2008 election season.[12]

In the November election, Hagan won by an unexpectedly wide margin, winning 53 percent of the vote to Dole's 44 percent—the largest margin of victory for a Senate race in North Carolina in 30 years, and the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent Senator in the 2008 cycle. It has been speculated that the wider-than-expected margin was partly due to anger over negative campaign ads by the Dole campaign in the latter stages of the race (see "Godless" ad below).[16] Hagan trounced Dole in the state's five largest counties—Mecklenburg, Wake, Guilford, Forsyth and Cumberland.[17] She also did very well in the eastern part of the state, outperforming Obama in that region.


Three people posing for a picture.
Hagan (center) with her husband (right) and lobbyist Tony Podesta.

In October 2008, Politico reported that Hagan's husband Chip Hagan III, a former Democratic county leader, had been a member of 1,000-member Greensboro Country Club for years, despite the club's de facto segregation and refusal to admit black members.[18] Hagan herself was not a member of the club. Greensboro Country Club admitted its first black member in 1995.[18]

"Godless" ad[edit]

In late October, the Dole campaign released a television ad that stated the leader of the Godless Americans PAC had held "a secret fundraiser in Kay Hagan's honor." The ad showed sound bites of group members espousing their views, then stated Kay Hagan "hid from cameras, took Godless money... what did Hagan promise in return?" It ended with a photo of Hagan and a female voice saying, "There is no God."[19][20] The ad aired across North Carolina.[19] Hagan's campaign says the ad sought to put inflammatory words in their candidate's mouth. The Dole campaign says the ad shows whom Hagan will associate with in order to raise campaign funds. On November 1, Bob Dole also defended it, asserting "it never questions her faith," and "the issue is why she was there. There's no question about her faith. I think it's [the ad's] fair game."[21]

Hagan, a member of First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro and a former Sunday school teacher,[20] condemned the ad as "fabricated and pathetic."[22] Hagan also filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court accusing Dole of defamation and libel.[23][24] Following Hagan's victory, the lawsuit was dropped.[25]

The ad met exceptionally strong criticism from the public as well as many local and several national media outlets. CNN's Campbell Brown said about the ad: "[A]mid all the attack ads on the airwaves competing to out-ugly one another, we think we've found a winner."[26] The ad was described as "ridiculously outrageous,"[27] "indecent,"[28] a "gross misrepresentation,"[29] "worse than dishonest"[30] and "beyond the bounds of acceptable political disagreement,"[30] among other harsh criticism.[31] The media reported that within 48 hours of the first ad Hagan received over 3,600 contributions, including major donors as well as individual support from a range of atheists, agnostics, and people of other religious beliefs, who felt they were being attacked by Dole.[32] Another ad issued by the Dole campaign in mid-October 2008 was described by The Fayetteville Observer as "[setting] the low mark in negative political campaigning."[33]

2014 election[edit]

Hagan is running for re-election in 2014, in a race seen as important for determining future control of the Senate.[34][35] Hagan was the target of numerous negative ads paid for by Americans for Prosperity, which had spent over $7 million on the race by the end of March 2014.[36][37] Hagan will face Republican Thom Tillis in the general election.[38]

Committee assignments[edit]

Political positions[edit]


On February 13, 2009, Hagan voted to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[39]

Hagan at first refused to take a position on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, but said she opposed it after the Senate passed the bill.[40]

Hagan voted against a resolution to establish a national consumer credit usury rate.[41]

Hagan was the lead sponsor of the "Computer Professionals Update Act," introduced in October 2011. The bill would exempt employers from paying overtime to "IT professionals." The bill died in committee.[42]


Planned Parenthood quotes Hagan as saying "I am a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose...I would like to see abortions be safe, legal, and rare. These decisions are best made privately by a woman in consultation with her doctor." [43] Hagan was endorsed by EMILY's List, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to office.[44]

Health care[edit]

In December 2009, Hagan voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,[45] and she later voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[46]

On September 27, 2013, Hagan voted to restore funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as part of an amendment to legislation funding government operations for 45 days, and which also omitted House-passed language prioritizing debt payments if Congress fails to increase the nation’s borrowing limits.[47][48][49] The Washington Post's Dana Milbank argued that Senator Hagan destabilizes her own Senate lead because she has difficulty communicating her support of Obamacare to her own constituents. During a phone call with her constituents, Senator Hagan embarrassingly fumbled the explanation of her support for the ACA by getting caught in abstractions and unclear thoughts.[50]


On December 18, 2010, Hagan was one of only five Democrats to vote against the DREAM Act.[51]

LGBT issues[edit]

On December 18, 2010, Hagan voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.[52][53]

Hagan opposed North Carolina's Amendment 1, a measure that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman in North Carolina's Constitution.[54]

On March 27, 2013, Hagan announced her support of gay marriage.[55]


Hagan differs from the Democratic Party on the issue of FDA regulation of the tobacco industry. Hagan opposed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which was cosponsored in the 110th Congress by Barack Obama. Lorillard Tobacco Company is based in her hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina.[56] Hagan was the only Democratic senator to oppose the bill when it came to a vote in the Senate. The bill passed with 79 votes in favor to 17 in opposition, including Hagan.[57]

Privacy issues[edit]

Hagan co-sponsored PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), a proposed law with the stated goal of giving the US government and copyright holders additional tools to curb access to "rogue websites dedicated to the sale of infringing or counterfeit goods," especially those registered outside the U.S." In the wake of online protests, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tabled the bill in January 2012.[58]

Gun rights[edit]

On April 17, 2013, Hagan voted to expand background checks for gun purchasers,[59] but also voted not to reinstate the Feinstein ban on "assault weapons" [60] nor to ban "large capacity ammunition feeding devices"[61] Hagan has been assigned an 'F' rating by the National Rifle Association.[62]


On May 20, 2014, Hagan introduced the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014 (S. 2363; 113th Congress), a bill related to hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation in the United States, aimed at improving "the public's ability to enjoy the outdoors."[63]

Electoral history[edit]

2008 North Carolina U.S. Senator general election[64]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Kay Hagan 2,249,311 52.65 +7.7
Republican Elizabeth Dole (incumbent) 1,887,510 44.18 -9.4
Libertarian Chris Cole 133,430 3.12 +1.6
Other Write-Ins 1,719 0.0 0
Majority 361,801
Turnout 4,271,970
Democratic gain from Republican Swing

Personal life[edit]

Hagan's husband, a transaction lawyer,[65] has a net worth between $10.7 million and $40 million.[40] The Hagans have three children: Jeanette, Tilden, and Carrie.[66]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "10 Things You Didn't Know About Kay Hagan". U.S. News and World Report. 2008-11-04. 
  2. ^ Nocera, Kate (2014-04-17). "Progressives Will Vote For Kay Hagan, But They’re Not Happy About It". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  3. ^ http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~battle/senators/hagan.htm
  4. ^ "Senator Kay R. Hagan". U.S. Senate. 
  5. ^ Green, Jordan (2008-03-18). "Kay Hagan tries to ride populist wave". Yes Weekly. 
  6. ^ http://www.ruthvens.com/about-us/
  7. ^ "Greeks in the 113th Congress". North-American Interfraternity Conference. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  8. ^ Beckwith, Ryan Teague (2007-10-08). "Hagan will not run against Dole". News & Observer. 
  9. ^ Thompson, Trent (2007-10-25). "NC-Sen: Sources Say Kay Hagan to Challenge Dole". Swing State Project. 
  10. ^ Valenzuela, Michelle (2007-10-30). "Hagan to run". News & Observer. 
  11. ^ Hartsfield, Kerri. "Kay Hagan to Face Elizabeth Dole in November". WFMY News 2 / Associated Press. 
  12. ^ a b c "Is the Southern Strategy Dead?". American Prospect. 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  13. ^ "2008 North Carolina Senate General Election: Dole (R-i) vs Hagan (D)". Pollster.com. 2008-10-20. 
  14. ^ "Scrambling the red states". The Economist. 2008-10-23. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  15. ^ Ryan Teague Beckwith (2008-11-04). "Obama coattails for Hagan?". Raleigh News & Observer. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  16. ^ Barbara Barrett (2008-11-05). "N.C. voters deny Dole, elect Hagan to U.S. Senate". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  17. ^ USA Today. November 10, 2008 http://content.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/NationalElectionResultsByStateCounty.aspx?sp=NC&oi=S&rti=G |url= missing title (help). Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  18. ^ a b Thrush, Glenn (2008-10-22). "Club segregation enters N.C. race". Politico. 
  19. ^ a b Kraushaar, Josh. Dole still keeping the faith. The Politico. October 29, 2008.
  20. ^ a b Brown, Campbell. Commentary: Mudslinging to get elected. CNN.com. October 29, 2008.
  21. ^ Bob Dole Defends "Godless" TV Ad. Small Business VoIP. November 1, 2008.
  22. ^ KayHagan.com. Kay on Dole Ad Attacking Her Christian Faith: A Fabricated, Pathetic Ad. October 30, 2008.
  23. ^ Dole Sued for 'Godless' Attack Ad, ABC News. October 30, 2008.
  24. ^ Dole challenger irate over suggestion she is 'godless'⁠. CNN.com. October 30, 2008.
  25. ^ Senator-elect Hagan drops suit over 'godless' TV ad.
  26. ^ Brown, Campbell. Commentary: Mudslinging to get elected. CNN.com. October 29, 2008.
  27. ^ Frank, James. Dole 'Godless' ad shows progress, sort of. Chicago Tribune. October 31, 2008.
  28. ^ Dole's desperate turn to Big Lie advertising. The Charlotte Observer. Oct. 30, 2008.
  29. ^ As election nears, negative ads a distraction. Asheville Citizen-Times. October 30, 2008.
  30. ^ a b Editorial: Dole’s attack on Hagan’s faith drives heated campaign lower. Greensboro News & Record. October 30, 2008.
  31. ^ ELIZABETH DOLE ATTACKS KAY HAGAN´S CHRISTIAN FAITH. AmericanChronicle.com. November 02, 2008.
  32. ^ "Dole's mistake: 'Godless' ad drove donors, voters to Hagan". Miami Herald. November 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-18. [dead link]
  33. ^ Dole’s new ads set the low mark in negative political campaigning. The Fayetteville Observer. October 15, 2008.
  34. ^ Trygstad, Kyle (7 April 2014). "Kay Hagan Raised $2.8 Million for Re-Election in 2014". Roll Call. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  35. ^ Sullivan, Sean (8 April 2014). "Vulnerable Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) raises nearly $2.8 million in first quarter". Washington Post. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  36. ^ Sullivan, Sean (31 March 2014). "Americans for Prosperity has already spent $7 million on ads against Kay Hagan. No, that’s not a typo.". Washington Post. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  37. ^ Raju, Manu (2 February 2014). "Koch brothers bombard vulnerable Senate Democrat Kay Hagan". Politico. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  38. ^ Funk, Tim; Arriero, Elizabeth (5-6-2014). "U.S. Senate: Thom Tillis, Kay Hagan capture party nominations". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  39. ^ Heaslip, Jennifer (2009-04-16). "Hagan: Stimulus means more jobs for WNC". Times-News. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  40. ^ a b "Kay Hagan's giving Elizabeth Dole a fight she never expected". Charlotte Observer. 2008-10-05. 
  41. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Senate.gov. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  42. ^ "S. 1747 (112th): Computer Professionals Update Act". GovTrack. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  43. ^ http://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/elections-politics/newly-elected-pro-choice-members-congress-805.htm
  44. ^ http://www.kayhagan.com/press/emilys-list-endorses-kay-hagan-for-us-senate
  45. ^ [1]
  46. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Senate.gov. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  47. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > S.Amdt.1974". Senate.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-27. 
  48. ^ Rebecca Berg (26 September 2013). "GOP attacks vulnerable Dems who refused to defund Obamacare". Washington Examiner. Retrieved September 27, 2013. 
  49. ^ Tom Cohen (27 September 2013). "Senate tosses shutdown hot potato back to House". CNN. 
  50. ^ Milbank, Dana (November 12, 2013). "A call for help from Democrats after Obamacare". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  51. ^ Mascaro, Lisa; Oliphant, James (December 19, 2010). "DREAM Act's failure in Senate derails immigration agenda". Los Angeles Times. 
  52. ^ [2]
  53. ^ "Senate Vote 281 - Repeals ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". The New York Times. 
  54. ^ http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2012/02/22/Senator_Kay_Hagan_Speaks_Out_Against_Antigay_Amendment_1/
  55. ^ http://www.towleroad.com/2013/03/senator-kay-hagan-d-nc-comes-out-for-marriage-equality.html
  56. ^ Craver, Richard (2008-11-10). "Burr, Hagan promise to work for N.C.". Winston-Salem Journal. 
  57. ^ "Senate Passes FDA Tobacco Bill". Wall Street Journal. June 12, 2009. [dead link]
  58. ^ Masnick, Mike (2-7-2012). "Who's Still Backing SOPA/PIPA... And Why?". Tech Dirt. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  59. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 1st Session". Legislation & Records. United States Senate. Retrieved 2013-07-30. 
  60. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 1st Session". Legislation & Records. United States Senate. Retrieved 2013-06-23. 
  61. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 1st Session". Legislation & Records. United States Senate. Retrieved 2013-06-23. 
  62. ^ "Where the Senate stands on guns - in one chart". The Washington Post. December 17, 2012. 
  63. ^ "Wicker, Cochran Sign on to Sportsmen's Legislative Package". Office of Senator Wicker. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  64. ^ NC State Board of Elections website
  65. ^ Hagan Davis Mangum Barrett Langley Hale PLLC - Who We Are
  66. ^ "Senator Kay R. Hagan". U.S. Senate website. Retrieved 2009-12-29.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

North Carolina Senate
Preceded by
John Blust
North Carolina State Senator from the 32nd district
January 27, 1999 – January 29, 2003
Succeeded by
Linda Garrou
Preceded by
John Garwood
North Carolina State Senator from the 27th district
January 29, 2003 – January 3, 2009
Succeeded by
Don Vaughan
United States Senate
Preceded by
Elizabeth Dole
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from North Carolina
January 3, 2009 – present
Served alongside: Richard Burr
Party political offices
Preceded by
Erskine Bowles
Democratic Party nominee for United States Senator from North Carolina
(Class 2)

2008 (won)
Succeeded by
Most recent
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Jim Risch
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Jeff Merkley