Sen. Kay Hagan's visit to Wilmington Friday was a rare journey to this part of the state by either of our senators.
One of the things that helped Hagan win her Senate seat two years ago was that many North Carolinians felt Elizabeth Dole was not in touch with the state. But when it comes to making their presence felt here in our area, neither Hagan nor Republican Richard Burr have done a very good job.
When Hagan ran for Senate in 2008, she had an alliterative jab for the famous Washington, DC, address for Dole, who claims Salisbury as home.
"You better believe I'm gonna be spending a lot more time in North Carolina, in Watauga, Wayne and Wilson Counties than the Watergate in Washington, DC," Hagan told WWAY in August 2008.
That helped propel the state senator from Guilford County to the US Senate, but since then Hagan has struggled to meet the campaign promise.
"I'm in North Carolina every weekend," Hagan said during a visit to Wilmington Friday, "and North Carolina's a huge state."
According to her staff, Hagan made 80 public appearances in North Carolina in 2009. The Democrat rarely strayed far from her Greensboro home with more than half of those stops coming along the I-85 corridor from Charlotte to the Triad and onto the Triangle.
Hagan made only three appearances in our area last year. On April 6 she checked out a shovel ready project in Shallotte and toured the old Nesbitt Court housing project in Wilmington. On August 24 she spent 30 minutes meeting with municipal leaders from New Hanover County at Wilmington City Hall.
"You know, I'd have to look at my calendar, but I think I've been here more than that," Hagan said when asked about her rare trips to Southeastern North Carolina. When told Friday was indeed just her third visit to this part of the state, Hagan promised more.
"Listen: if that's few, I'll be back," she said. "I love this part."
Hagan is not the only senator having trouble proving the Cape Fear Coast is not low on the political totem pole.
"I don't think it's that you're low on the totem pole," Sen. Burr said last month. "I think that the state, no. 1, is a big state with very diverse interests."
Burr covered more territory than Hagan last year while making 109 public appearances, according to his office, but just two of those stops were in our area. Both were in Wilmington on April 17.
"There's a huge difference between representing the mountains and representing the beaches," Burr said. "But we've got to make sure the policies that we work on are blind to the geographical locations."
So are the policies blind? Is there a correlation between time spent in an area and the commitment to serving that area? Maybe. When we asked both candidates what projects they were working on specifically for Southeastern North Carolina, neither had a concrete answer.
We contacted both senators' offices in late January to get their public schedules for last year. The next week, Burr visited two Wilmington schools and made a live appearance on WWAY. Today was the first time this year Sen. Hagan came to Wilmington.
As for Hagan's promise about Watauga, Wayne and Wilson versus the Watergate? Well, she's made one visit each to Watauga and Wayne, but has not stepped foot in Wilson County since joining the Senate.
As for the lack of attention to our area, experts we've talked with say, simply put, we don't have enough votes and clout to make a difference.