Closings and delays

Clinton decries outside spending in pricy NC Senate race

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Sen. Kay Hagan and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Negative, expensive campaigns is something Sen. Kay Hagan is getting an education in this year. And something Hillary Clinton knows very well.

Clinton campaigned Saturday for her fellow Democrat at a Charlotte rally of about 1,800 supporter. The former U.S. senator and secretary of state — and widely presumed 2016 presidential contender — used her appearance for Hagan to decry Thom Tillis, the Republican looking to unseat Hagan in November, as someone who will answer to big business, not raise the minimum wage and slash education funding.

And unlike other appearances Clinton has made on the midterm campaign trail, the former first lady spent a portion of her speech Saturday decrying the level of outside spending in the Hagan-Tillis race.

“Elections come down often to who has got more money, who is pedaling more fear and who turns out,” Clinton told an excited crowd. The former first lady later criticized the “onslaught of out of state money and negativity that is coming in against” Hagan.

“You have to prove them wrong,” Clinton urged the crowd. Prove to them “that no matter how much money has flooded into this state, North Carolina is not for sale” — the latter phrase having a mantra for Hagan supporters.

There is a reason Clinton focused on this: The North Carolina Senate race is by far the most expensive in the country this year. So far, campaigns and outside groups have spent close to $80 million in the state.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Tillis has had $44 million of outside money spent on his behalf. Hagan has had $22 million.

Tillis is backed by groups like Americans For Prosperity, Crossroads GPS and the Chamber of Commerce. Hagan has been supported by Senate Majority PAC, the National Education Association and AFSCME, a labor organization.

The onslaught of spending likely won’t stop soon, either. A spokesman for Hagan said he sees the total spent in the campaign jumping to over $100 million in the last 10 days of campaign.

This level of spending is something Clinton understands personally: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Clinton’s New York Senate race in 2000, which cost over $100 million, is the most expensive race ever (in 2014 dollar terms).

Clinton did her part on Saturday to make sure that Hagan had enough money in the final days of the campaign. Before her speech — which was free for those who attended — the former first lady took part in a fundraising reception and photo line for the Hagan campaign.

Organizers would not say how much that event raised, but pointed out that it was also used as a reward for active volunteers.

Hagan, too, belied the amount of outside spending in the race, even though she is benefiting from some.

She criticized “out-of-state billionaires” who are “trying to buy this election.”

“I want you to help send a message loud and clear to my opponent and his special interest allies,” Hagan said. “I want it to be so loud that the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove, wherever they are, because we know they aren’t in North Carolina, we want to tell them that North Carolina is now for sale.”

What the outside spending has meant is near constant negative ads on televisions across the state.

At a focus group of 10 North Carolina moms earlier this week, the negative ads were one of many reasons that the women said they were tuning out the Hagan-Tillis race.

“All I get from all of those is don’t vote for that person, because they are a bad person, vote for me,” said one woman.

“Everything we are teaching your kids is ridiculous,” said another, reflecting on the ads. “We teach our kids not to bully and that is all they are doing.”