RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Democrat Kay Hagan knocked Elizabeth Dole out of the U.S. Senate after just one term in office on Tuesday, likely ending a storied political career for one of the biggest names in the Republican Party.
The Associated Press called the race for Hagan based on an analysis of voter interviews, conducted for the AP by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
Hagan was a little-known state senator from Greensboro when she entered the race to unseat Dole one year ago. But Democrats eager to reach a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate rushed to her aid with millions of dollars in advertising that tarnished Dole's name and left voters with the impression she was ineffective and out of touch.
Dole, of Salisbury, responded by putting some $3 million of her own money into the race as she tried to maintain her seat just six years after winning it. But to voters, Dole's stints as a two-time White House cabinet secretary and one-time presidential candidate appeared less like a resume and more like a rapsheet in an election defined by change. She is married to Bob Dole, former Senate majority leader and 1996 GOP presidential nominee.
Hagan is a state lawmaker who rose through the ranks of the General Assembly to become one of North Carolina's chief budget writers. Her consistent and safe campaign had a simple strategy: She introduced herself to as many voters as possible through a stream of television ads and a campaign van that took her back and forth across the state.
Hagan's victory indicates that voters may have been turned off by Dole's 11th hour ad campaign, which questioned her rival's decision to attend a fundraiser. But the initial ad concluded with a photo of Hagan while another woman's voice declared in the background, "There is no God."
The ad drew condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike. Hagan responded with a lawsuit and a forceful ad of her own that defended her personal faith and cited the 9th Commandment in declaring that Dole was "bearing false witness against fellow Christians."