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2008 United States Senate election in North Carolina

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2008 United States Senate election in North Carolina

← 2002 November 4, 2008 2014 →
Kay Hagan official photo.jpg
Elizabeth Dole official photo.jpg
Nominee Kay Hagan Elizabeth Dole
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 2,249,311 1,887,510
Percentage 52.6% 44.1%

North Carolina Senate Election Results by County, 2008.svg
County results
Hagan:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%
Dole:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%

U.S. senator before election

Elizabeth Dole

Elected U.S. Senator

Kay Hagan

The 2008 United States Senate election in North Carolina was held on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. The Senate election coincided with the presidential, U.S. House elections, gubernatorial, Council of State, and statewide judicial elections. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole ran for re-election to a second term, but was defeated by Democrat Kay Hagan.[1]

The November general election was the first time in North Carolina history, and only the eighth time in U.S. history, that the two major-party candidates for a U.S. Senate seat were both women. In addition, Hagan became the first Democrat to win this seat since it was won by the Republicans in 1972, and the first woman to defeat an incumbent woman in a U.S. Senate election. As of 2021, this is the last time the Democrats won a U.S. Senate election in North Carolina, and also the last time the winner of this seat received a majority of the vote.

Democratic primary


  • Kay Hagan, State Senator
  • Duskin Lassiter, trucker
  • Jim Neal, businessman
  • Howard Staley, doctor
  • Marcus Williams, attorney


Hagan, initially an unknown politician, decided to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole.[2]

National Democrats attempted to recruit incumbent Governor Mike Easley to make the race. A late October 2007 Rasmussen Report poll showed Easley defeating Dole 50% to 42%.[3][4] Easley declined to run, as did Congressman Brad Miller, who expressed interest in early 2007.[5][6] Former Governor Jim Hunt also declined to compete against Dole.[7][8]

Neal earned the endorsement of the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. He also was endorsed by Blue America PAC, eQualityGiving, the Independent Weekly and YES ! Weekly.[9]


Democratic primary results[10]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kay Hagan 801,920 60.1%
Democratic Jim Neal 239,623 18.0%
Democratic Marcus W. Williams 170,970 12.8%
Democratic Duskin Lassiter 62,136 4.6%
Democratic Howard Staley 60,403 4.5%
Total votes 1,335,052 100.0%

Republican primary



Republican primary results[10]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Elizabeth Dole (incumbent) 460,665 90.0%
Republican Pete DiLauro 51,406 10.0%
Total votes 512,071 100.0%

General election



Dole's attack ad, "Godless".
Dole's attack ad, "Godless".

Dole was initially a heavy favorite for reelection, especially after several potential top-tier challengers such as Congressman Brad Miller, Governor Mike Easley and former Governor Jim Hunt all declined to compete against Dole.[7][8] Ultimately, Kay Hagan, a state senator from Greensboro, won the Democratic primary election and became Dole's general election opponent. Reports late in the campaign suggested that Dole, once considered a safe bet for reelection, suffered from Barack Obama's decision to aggressively contest North Carolina in the presidential election.[11]

Hagan was initially given little chance against Dole, but Hagan was helped by independent 527 groups lobbying/advertising against incumbent Dole [8] The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee expended more money in North Carolina than in any other state during the 2008 election season.[8] However, Dole benefited from more out-of-state funding overall than Hagan.[12] The efforts appeared to be effective, as Hagan began to take the lead in several polls beginning in September.

In late October, Dole released a controversial television ad attacking Hagan for reportedly taking donations from individuals involved in the Godless Americans PAC, a group which advocates for the rights of people who do not believe in God. The ad also included a female voice saying, "There is no God."[13][14] The Dole campaign said the ad correctly shows who Hagan will associate with in order to raise campaign funds, and on November 1, Bob Dole also defended it, asserting that "it never questions her faith," and that "the issue is why she was there. There's no question about her faith. I think it's [the ad's] fair game."[15]

Hagan, who is a member of the Presbyterian Church and a former Sunday school teacher,[14] condemned the ad as "fabricated and pathetic," and, according to Hagan's campaign website, a cease-and-desist letter was "hand-delivered to Dole's Raleigh office, faxed to her Salisbury office and sent to her home at the Watergate in Washington, DC."[16] Hagan also filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court accusing Dole of defamation and libel.[17][18]

The ad has 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."[19] The ad has been described as "ridiculously outrageous,"[20] "indecent,"[21] a "gross misrepresentation,"[22] "worse than dishonest"[23] and "beyond the bounds of acceptable political disagreement,"[23] among other harsh criticism.[24] 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."[25] 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 followers of other religious beliefs who felt they were being attacked by Dole.[26] Following the second ad Hagan's lead doubled according to some polls.[26]


In June 2008, Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, considered North Carolina to be one of the top ten most competitive Senate races of the year.[27] Later, CQ Politics rated this race as 'Leans Democratic'.[28] The Cook Political Report called it a 'Toss-Up'.[29] The Rothenberg Political Report considered it a 'Lean Takeover'.[30]


Hagan on the campaign trail
Hagan on the campaign trail

Polls released during the week of October 28, 2008 showed Dole and Hagan within the statistical margin of error (3% apart).[2]

Poll source Dates administered Kay
Hagan (D)
Dole (R)
Public Policy Polling February 18, 2008 33% 50%
Rasmussen Reports April 10, 2008 39% 52%
Research 2000/Daily Kos April 28–30, 2008 41% 48%
Rasmussen Reports May 8, 2008 48% 47%
Public Policy Polling May 8–9, 2008 43% 48%
Civitas Institute/
Tel Opinion Research
May 14–17, 2008 43% 45%
Survey USA May 17–19, 2008 46% 50%
Public Policy Polling May 28–29, 2008 39% 47%
Anzalone Liszt Research June 4, 2008 44% 48%
Rasmussen Reports June 10, 2008 39% 53%
Civitas Institute/
Tel Opinion Research
June 11–13, 2008 38% 48%
The Tarrance Group July 9, 2008 36% 51%
Survey USA July 14, 2008 42% 54%
Rasmussen Reports July 15, 2008 43% 54%
Public Policy Polling July 23–27, 2008 40% 49%
Research 2000/Daily Kos July 28–30, 2008 42% 50%
Insider Advantage August 19, 2008 40% 40%
Public Policy Polling August 23, 2008 42% 39%
Democracy Corps August 26, 2008 50% 45%
Survey USA September 8, 2008 40% 48%
Daily Kos/Research 2000 September 10, 2008 42% 48%
Rasmussen Reports September 18, 2008 51% 45%
Public Policy Polling September 19, 2008 46% 41%
Rasmussen Reports September 23, 2008 48% 45%
Public Policy Polling September 28–29, 2008 46% 38%
Survey USA October 5–6, 2008 43% 44%
Rasmussen Reports October 8, 2008 49% 44%
Survey USA October 20, 2008 46% 45%
Rasmussen Reports October 29, 2008 52% 46%
Survey USA November 2, 2008 50% 43%


2008 United States Senate election in North Carolina[31]
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 3.17% +2.1%
Write-in 1,719 0.0% 0.0%
Total votes 4,271,970 100.00% N/A
Democratic gain from Republican


In the 2008 election, Dole lost by a wider-than-expected margin, taking only 44 percent of the vote to Hagan's 53 percent – the widest margin 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 outcry over the "Godless" ads contributed to Dole's loss.[32] Hagan trounced Dole in the state's five largest counties – Mecklenburg, Wake, Guilford, Forsyth and Durham. Hagan also dominated most of the eastern portion of the state, which had been the backbone of Helms' past Senate victories. While Dole dominated the Charlotte suburbs and most of the heavily Republican Foothills region, it was not enough to save her seat.

See also


  1. ^ Libertarian Party of NC press release: Libertarians File List of 2008 Candidates Archived September 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b "Perdue tries to whistle up a Mayberry miracle". Raleigh News and Observer. October 28, 2008. Retrieved October 28, 2008.[dead link]
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 26, 2007. Retrieved November 10, 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Dan Kane; Rob Christensen; J. Andrew Curliss (January 25, 2007). "Poll puts Easley over Dole". The News & Observer. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved February 5, 2007.
  5. ^ | Miller looking at Senate race Archived May 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Draft dodger? | projects Archived May 1, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b 2008 Election Challenge.
  8. ^ a b c d "Is the Southern Strategy Dead?". American Prospect. October 24, 2008. Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
  9. ^ "Profile of U.S. Senate Candidate Jim Neal". News & Observer. October 4, 2007. Archived from the original on June 1, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  10. ^ a b NC State Board of Elections website
  11. ^ "Scrambling the red states". The Economist. October 23, 2008. Retrieved October 23, 2008.
  12. ^ "Elizabeth Dole: Campaign Finance/Money - Summary." Center for Responsive Politics.
  13. ^ Kraushaar, Josh. Hagan's campaign says the ad sought to put inflammatory words in their candidate's mouth; The Dole campaign says the ad correctly shows who Hagan will associate with in order to raise campaign funds.Dole still keeping the faith. The Politico. October 29, 2008.
  14. ^ a b Brown, Campbell. Commentary: Mudslinging to get elected. October 29, 2008.
  15. ^ Bob Dole Defends "Godless" TV Ad. Small Business VoIP. November 1, 2008.
  16. ^ Kay on Dole Ad Attacking Her Christian Faith: A Fabricated, Pathetic Ad Archived May 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. October 30, 2008.
  17. ^ Dole Sued for 'Godless' Attack Ad Archived January 20, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, ABC News. October 30, 2008.
  18. ^ Dole challenger irate over suggestion she is "godless". October 30, 2008.
  19. ^ Brown, Campbell. Commentary: Mudslinging to get elected. October 29, 2008.
  20. ^ Frank, James. Dole 'Godless' ad shows progress, sort of Archived November 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Chicago Tribune. October 31, 2008.
  21. ^ Dole's desperate turn to Big Lie advertising Archived April 18, 2009, at the Stanford Web Archive. The Charlotte Observer. October 30, 2008.
  22. ^ As election nears, negative ads a distraction[permanent dead link]. Asheville Citizen-Times. October 30, 2008.
  23. ^ a b Editorial: Dole's attack on Hagan's faith drives heated campaign lower. Greensboro News & Record. October 30, 2008.
  25. ^ Dole's new ads set the low mark in negative political campaigning. The Fayetteville Observer. October 15, 2008.
  26. ^ a b "Dole's mistake: 'Godless' ad drove donors, voters to Hagan". Miami Herald. November 11, 2008. Retrieved November 18, 2008.[dead link]
  27. ^ Kate Phillips, G.O.P. Leader Maps Senate Elections The New York Times, June 13, 2008
  28. ^ Race Ratings Chart: Senate Archived October 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine CQ Politics
  29. ^ 2008 Senate Race Ratings Archived November 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine The Cook Political Report, October 23, 2008
  30. ^ 2008 Senate Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, November 2, 2008
  31. ^ NC State Board of Elections website
  32. ^ Barbara Barrett (November 5, 2008). "N.C. voters deny Dole, elect Hagan to U.S. Senate". Miami Herald. Retrieved November 5, 2008.

External links

This page was last edited on 4 March 2021, at 08:41
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