WASHINGTON – Republican Senate hopeful Thom Tillis cut $500 million in funding for North Carolina schools while giving tax breaks to his rich friends, the campaign arm for Senate Democrats said Wednesday, in the first piece of a $9.1 million ad campaign set to stay on the airwaves through November's elections.
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The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's efforts to help endangered first-term incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan center on Tillis' tenure as speaker of the state House. Democrats have spent months combing through Tillis' voting record and now are starting an ad blitz to tell voters about the conservative GOP caucus he led in Raleigh.
"House Speaker Thom Tillis drew a bulls-eye on public schools, cutting nearly $500 million," a female narrator in the 30-second ad says. "Tillis sliced and diced education, creating chaos in our classrooms and hurting middle class families."
Hagan has used similar criticism of Tillis' record on education in recent days, hoping to tilt female voters into her camp. If Hagan is to win a second term, she will need the overwhelming support of women to prevail in one of the closest and most expensive races in the country.
Hoping to help, Hagan's allies are focusing on education. The GOP-led North Carolina legislature cut taxes in 2013, leading to $480 million less for education in that year and the next.
During his campaign for the Senate, Tillis also has proposed cutting the federal Department of Education, a favorite target for conservative candidates. Tillis tells audiences that North Carolina parents should determine what North Carolina students learn, and that Hagan favors a federal approach to schools.
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Hagan calls that irresponsible and inaccurate. North Carolina is expected to receive $910 million from the U.S. Department of Education next year. Much of that money is for poor and rural schools. Hagan has criticized Tillis as someone who, if elected to the Senate, would be working to take dollars away from North Carolina students and teachers.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ad also criticizes what it calls Tillis-backed "tax breaks to yacht and jet owners," trying to pit the Republican against North Carolina families struggling with 6.4 percent unemployment.
North Carolina's tax system caps the sale tax on yachts and jets at $1,500, while making county club memberships tax exempt.
North Carolina's Senate race is among the handful of contests that will decide which party controls the Senate after the election. Republicans need to pick up six Senate seats to claim a majority, and their outside allies are already on television airwaves with strong criticism of Hagan.
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