SARAH LOWERY, STAFF WRITER
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton both made stops in Lincolnton on Friday. The Democratic politicians met with constituents to discuss pressing issues and rally support for their party.
Hagan hosted her 50th â€œConversations with Kayâ€ at the Lincoln County Senior Center during the afternoon, with her constituent services staff on hand to assist attendees in navigating issues with federal agencies.
Coming from a stop at FMC Lithium in Bessemer City, Hagan spoke briefly before making her rounds at each table set up in the centerâ€™s multipurpose room.
She noted how she wakes up each morning wanting to make a difference, adding that her focus, therefore, is on jobs. She lamented North Carolinaâ€™s 10.5 percent unemployment rate, which is even higher for veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hagan said the next provision of President Barack Obamaâ€™s jobs bill to be introduced in the U.S. Senate is one targeted toward veterans that would offer companies tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans. And she described North Carolina as the â€œmost military-friendly stateâ€ in the country while encouraging the backing of the legislation, which is similar to her Hire a Hero Act she introduced earlier this year.
She also expressed her disappointment that a piece of the jobs package geared toward infrastructure was blocked by the Senate on Thursday.
After meeting with those in attendance, Hagan spoke with the media, again highlighting the need to put the â€œincredible skillsâ€ of veterans to work. In a response to a question on health care for veterans, she noted that the state is a recipient of new Veterans Affairs facilities, called â€œSuper Clinics,â€ as a result of legislation passed in 2009.
She also touched on her Textile Enforcement and Security Act, which she recently reintroduced with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Hagan stressed the importance of cracking down on fraudulent trading practices and said the bill would provide electronic surveillance that would help to do that.
As an example, she noted how yarn produced in the state is shipped overseas to be turned into products and is then allowed to be brought back in tariff free. However, the amount of product coming back in the country duty free is more than double the amount of yarn that went out, meaning foreign manufacturers are skirting tariff rules.
Before leaving, Hagan was offered refreshments, and she jokingly asked for a box of 36th Street Bakery cookies to-go.
Also on Friday, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton visited with supporters at the Lincoln County Democratic Party Headquarters before making a speech to fire up support for his party in upcoming elections.
Party Chair Deanna McGinnis introduced the lieutenant governor, saying it was a â€œgreat night to be a Democratâ€ and that she believes they can turn the county and state â€œblue.â€
Dalton began by referencing Haganâ€™s stop earlier in the day, noting that there is â€œno greater fighterâ€ than Kay Hagan.
He talked about how he toured the state, listening to small-business owners, adding how he hopes to join businesses and schools to accelerate learning, create jobs and align efforts. He also credited a lack of oversight as having led to the â€œGreat Recessionâ€ and said that for eight years, there was a lot of â€œtearing down.â€
Dalton also spoke about those who are impatient to see the change promised them by President Obama, describing the country as a â€œsociety of instant.â€ But he believes people are starting to see the â€œimportance of progressive leadership.â€
He touched on North Carolinaâ€™s past as an innovator in providing opportunity and education, citing the stateâ€™s public universities, community college system and the Research Triangle Park as examples.
Dalton emphasized that he believes in a â€œbubble-up economyâ€ as opposed to one that trickles down, so as to equip everyone to succeed in a â€œfiscally responsible manner.â€ In reference to Republican education budget cuts, he said he has never thought of education as â€œwasteful spendingâ€ and instead sees it as an â€œinvestment in our future.â€
Alluding to a quote in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill basketball coach Roy Williamsâ€™ book â€œHard Work,â€ he said that rather than being pushed by their problems, people should be led by their dreams.
He also encouraged supporters to get out there and talk about the facts as opposed to party politics, later saying their partyâ€™s defeat in 2010 should â€œshake our soul.â€
Following his speech, he took a few questions before concluding by saying, â€œThank you for everything you have done, but most of all for what you will do.â€
McGinnis then invited mayoral candidate Pamela Huskey and City Council incumbent Dr. Les Cloninger to speak, both of whom thanked the party for its support and encouraged members to get out the vote. Huskey said she hoped to become the first female mayor of Lincolnton, while Cloninger added that he had never seen this amount of enthusiasm from his party.
Cliff Moone, chair of the N.C. Democratic Partyâ€™s 10th Congressional District, was also in attendance, and he concluded the night by inviting party members to commit 10 hours of their time over the next year to strengthen support within the district in advance of the national election.