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« House Incumbents Still Alive | Blog Home Page | Dems Spend In OR Primary »

Dole, Hagan To Face Off

State Senator Kay Hagan easily bested her primary opponents last night in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, taking 60% of the vote to just 18% for her closest rival, developer Jim Neal. Hagan will now face what could be a monumental struggle to unseat first-term incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole in November.

Hagan was not the initial choice of Washington Democrats, who pursued outgoing Governor Mike Easley and several other potential candidates before coalescing around her. But during her time on the trail, Hagan has showed a prolific fundraising ability, raking in a whopping $1.5 million so far. She spent most of that during the primary season, reporting just $317,000 on hand as of the middle of April, but her ability to raise money should keep her at least competitive with Dole.

But Dole has advantages of her own. With $3.15 million in the bank, she starts the general election contest with a huge head start, and Dole is virtually universally known throughout the state. Polls have showed most voters have a favorable opinion of her and say she's doing a good job in office, making Hagan's task that much more difficult.

National Democrats, replete with money to spend on Senate races, might wade in to North Carolina if they see encouraging poll numbers. If Democrats are to have a chance to win a huge Senate majority, they will need to do so on the backs of states like North Carolina, where second-tier contests will be a serious challenge. Dole remains a heavy favorite at the moment, but she will have to pay attention to her state's political winds to make sure she stays that way.