Greensboro -- U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan cruised to victory in the Democratic primary Tuesday and turned to the more daunting challenge of trying to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
Hagan, a state senator from Greensboro, immediately invited the support of voters who backed her chief rival, Chapel Hill entrepreneur Jim Neal. Neal had galvanized liberal activists in the party in part through his willingness to candidly discuss he was gay.
"I want to invite them to come on board, and I certainly need their support," said Hagan.
Neal, who carried less than 20 percent of the vote, had repeatedly dismissed Hagan as a political insider. Neal argued that he was the only candidate with the ability to defeat Dole, a national political figure who has worked in two presidential cabinets.
Dole, first elected in 2002, easily cruised to a win in the GOP primary to defeat challenger Pete Di Lauro of Weldon.
"I look forward to an ongoing dialogue with folks from Manteo to Murphy and asking them for the privilege of representing them in a second term," Dole said in a statement provided by her campaign.
Hagan, 54, has been a state senator for almost a decade and has served as one of the chamber's chief budget writers for three terms. She previously worked at NationsBank after earning a law degree at Wake Forest University, but she left the job after the birth of her third child.
She will face Senator Elizabeth Dole who easily won the Republican nomination.
Hagan spent most of Election Day in Charlotte, visiting 13 polling sites to speak with voters. "Her husband, Chip, has been going to every polling location in Durham," said Colleen Flanagan, communications director for Hagan's campaign. "Her children are in Cary and Raleigh, and her parents are right down the street in Greensboro. So, we have been well represented around the state."
Hagan watched the results come in from the Old Guilford County Courthouse in Greensboro. "It's all about celebrating what hopefully will be a great night for us," said Flanagan.
Several candidates will join Hagan at the courthouse Tuesday, according to a representative from the Guilford County Board of Elections. They say the public is welcome to join the candidates. The viewing will be held in room 201.
Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole won her primary against challenger Pete Di Lauro. She released the following statement:
"It was an honor of a lifetime to be elected as the first woman to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate, and I am eager to campaign for re-election. My campaign will focus on my record of results for North Carolinians and the goals I still want to accomplish for our state. Since my election, I have enjoyed spending time in all of North Carolina's 100 counties and talking with people about the issues that matter most to them. I look forward to an ongoing dialogue with folks from Manteo to Murphy and asking them for the privilege of representing them in a second term."
WFMY News 2 / Associated Press