When he learned his mother would be running for U.S. Senate, Tilden Hagan left San Diego, Calif., for Greensboro, the headquarters of the Kay Hagan for U.S. Senate campaign. Hagan, who is straight, is no stranger to the world of politics. His mother first ran for the North Carolina Senate when he was in high school.
He’s said that even after all this time being exposed to politics it’s still difficult to hear personal attacks against his mother. Understandably, Tilden was shocked at the now-notorious Elizabeth Dole campaign ad suggesting Kay Hagan was “godless,” which ultimately backfired.
At the May 18 meeting of the Charlotte Business Guild, Hagan shared with community members his experience working on the campaign. He recounted first hearing Dole’s “Godless” ad and feared it would cost his mother votes. Hagan shared the ad and his mother’s response with the group and said the days after were when he saw his mother at her strongest.
The 2008 campaign for U.S. Senate saw many highs and lows. From Dole’s attacks to the primary, the year-long campaign was of keen interest to LGBT voters. Chapel Hill businessman Jim Neal, the first openly gay Senate candidate in either major parties’ primary, challenged Kay Hagan for the chance to take on Dole in the general election. Hagan said the primary campaign made his mother stronger, ultimately leading to her victory in the general election.
During the campaign, Hagan helped with everything from making phone calls to I.T. work to speaking on behalf of his mother. He was an important surrogate for his mother on the campaign trail, traveling all over the state, speaking at dozens of events and gatherings. The campaign, he said, was truly a family affair. On one day alone — July 4, 2008 to be exact — he, his mother, father and two sisters each attended a combined 19 events across the state.
Now, Hagan is back to school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he is pursuing a medical degree. He said he hopes to eventually help create new nerve implants that will aid people with prosthetic limbs. : :
— Matt Comer contributed.