09/26/08 — Senate hopeful makes stop, talks to Wayne County farmers

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Senate hopeful makes stop, talks to Wayne County farmers

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 26, 2008 1:40 PM

FREMONT -- Promises of better and more visible leadership were on the lips of U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan as she made a brief campaign stop at Jerry West's farm in Fremont Thursday afternoon.

Kay Hagan Visit

News-Argus/Greg Sousa

North Carolina Senator and U.S. Senate candidate Democrat Kay Hagan talks with Wayne County farmer Andy Evans, co-owner of Evans Farms, during a visit to Jerry West’s farm near Fremont on Thursday.

Talking primarily about the current national economic crisis, Mrs. Hagan, a Democrat and current state senator from Guilford County, accused her opponent, incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole, of being absent and out-of-touch with the issues, focusing specifically on her criticism that Mrs. Dole, a member of the Senate Banking committee, once went 60 meetings without saying a word.

"No questions, no statements," Mrs. Hagan said.

It's a charge that the Dole campaign has denied, but one that Mrs. Hagan has nonetheless held up as an example of Mrs. Dole's ineffectiveness the last six years.

"When we look at what's happened with the economy today ... it's a serious situation," Mrs. Hagan said. "We need a serious person who will go up there and work for the people of North Carolina."

Holding up her own record as a member of the Senate Appropriation/Base Budget committee, Mrs. Hagan pointed to the state's pension plan, its AAA credit rating, its rainy day fund and its improved teacher pay.

"We do things right in North Carolina because we balance our budget every year. I want you to contrast that with what goes on at the national level," she said, pointing to the ballooning national debt and current economic crisis.

And, she continued, if this $700 billion bailout is the best solution -- and she didn't offer any alternatives -- then she believes it does need to include more oversight, as well as limits on the pay of executives of any company receiving bailout money, and help for homeowners facing foreclosure.

Beyond that, she added, the most important thing is to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"We've got to make sure we have the cops back on the street -- that we have the right regulations," she said. "We've got to make sure the taxpayers are not stuck."

Something, she believes would be easier to do if it were not for the war in Iraq.

"I support the military 100 percent," she said, noting her family's long history of military service, including a nephew currently stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. "But we need to stop refereeing an Iraqi civil war. We're also building roads and bridges over there, when we should be doing that over here."

Mrs. Hagan also talked about the need to improve rural economies, partly through investing in alternative crops for use as renewable energy resources -- much like the North Carolina Legislature has done in recent years with bills mandating power companies to use more renewable energy.

"We don't have an energy policy. I really think in the next 10 years we'll see a transformation in this country. We've got to do something to become less dependent on foreign oil," she said, adding that while she does support offshore drilling, she thinks oil companies ought to first be drilling in the full expanse of their existing leases and that drilling alone is not the answer.

Other issues she discussed included the need to expand broadband Internet access to more rural communities nd the need to improve health care and attract doctors to rural areas

"I really want to go to Washington to work for everybody in North Carolina, but I really think the rural areas need a stronger voice," she said.

The 20 or so members of the audience, predominantly farmers, questioned Mrs. Hagan closely on the issue of immigration.

But when it came to specifics of how to deal with the existing illegal immigrant population, how to implement an effective guest worker program and how best to secure the border, Mrs. Hagan was a little short on details, saying only that she did not support "amnesty."

"It needs to be a comprehensive solution," she said, charging that of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, about five million of them have come in during Mrs. Dole's one term in office. "Libby Dole has been known as a deal-breaker, not a deal-maker when it comes to the immigration issue. I want to go to Washington and work to fix the problem."

The bottom line, she said, is that she is a North Carolina resident who wants to work for North Carolina.

"I don't think people had seen (Mrs. Dole) for about five years until recently," she said, calling Mrs. Dole "Senator Nowhere" in reference to the fact that she was registered to vote in Kansas before switching to North Carolina in time to fill former Sen. Jesse Helms' seat. "I'm going to spend more time in Wayne County, Wilson County and Watauga County than in at the Watergate (hotel where the Doles have a residence) in D.C."