Jim Neal and state Sen. Kay Hagan (D-Guilford) face each other in the May 6 primary.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Recent polling data suggests that party establishment favorite state Sen. Kay Hagan (D-Guilford) might not have as sure-fire win as once assumed in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in May.
Jim Neal, Hagan’s openly gay opponent from Chapel Hill, is running neck-and-neck with the Guilford County senator.
Although an Elon University poll conducted Feb. 18-21 shows both Neal and Hagan have low name recognition, each candidates’ percentage numbers are within the margin of error (plus-or-minus 3.6 percent). The poll asked 764 North Carolina residents which candidate would be the best to oppose incumbent Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Hagan stood at 6.5 percent with Neal at 3.9.
The overwhelming majority of the Elon poll participants answered “Don’t Know” (46.6 percent), “Too early to tell/Not sure” (34.8 percent) or “Someone else” (8.2 percent).
In a SurveyUSA poll sponsored by Raleigh’s ABC 11 (WTVD-TV), Neal and Hagan were more closely matched, with Hagan leading at 24 percent and Neal at 23 percent. That poll questioned 2,000 North Carolina adults on Feb. 11, of which 1,669 were registered to vote and 580 were “likely to vote” in the May primary.
Neal said he doesn’t pay attention to the polls. “Next week we’ll have a different poll, released by someone else, saying something different,” he told Q-Notes. “When the voters go to the real polls on May 6, they’ll make their selection on who they think is the right candidate to provide leadership for North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.”
Describing himself as the “outsider, non-status quo candidate,” Neal said that his campaign has received strong and positive receptions across the state.
“Things are going fantastic and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the amazing reception we are receiving,” he said. “We are getting positive reactions from Democrats from all walks of life — progressive Democrats, mainstream Democrats, young people, African-Americans and the LGBT community.”
When asked about the polling data that shows Hagan and Neal statistically even, Hagan spokesperson Colleen Flanagan countered with a Feb. 6 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling. In that particular poll, Hagan had 21 percent while Neal clocked in at only seven.
The Hagan campaign had no comment on particular polling data, but issued a statement through Flanagan:
“Sen. Hagan is working to give North Carolina a fresh voice in Washington — new ideas and new approaches to solving old problems. Her record of leadership in the state Senate is that of a problem-solver, someone who puts results before anything else. Sen. Hagan is second to no one when it comes to protecting all people from discrimination. Over the coming weeks and months, folks all over the state will hear from Sen. Hagan about her record and what she will bring to Washington, but more importantly, she’ll hear from North Carolinians about the issues most important to them.”
Q-Notes was unable to reach Flanagan to pose follow-up questions about Hagan’s specific support for issues such as marriage equality, employment non-discrimination, hate crimes and the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. We asked for the candidate’s stand on each of these issues in our initial request for comment.
During a Feb. 25 forum at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Hagan told students she would leave the definition of marriage up to state law.
At the end of February, the Greensboro News and Record profiled progressive Democratic Party activists, most of whom are favoring Neal in the primary race.
“I feel pretty clearly pulled toward Neal in this case,” Carrboro Town Alderman Dan Coleman told the newspaper. “Who is the candidate for change versus who is the candidate that’s kind of mired in status quo politics? I think it’s clear Hagan is in the latter category.”
The Democratic primary in North Carolina will be held May 6. The eventual Democratic Senate candidate will face Dole in the general election on Nov. 4.