U.S. Sen. Kay
meetings with constituents must continue
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
At her first informal meeting with her Outer Banks constituents on
Wednesday, Jan. 12, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan moved easily among tables at
the Dare Center, stopping at each one to chat and listen.
Moments before, the North Carolina Democrat breezed into the room,
greeting local officials with familiar back-pats and banter about rock
fishing and tuna catches. Numerous folks thanked her for
push the Bonner Bridge replacement project forward.
“It is long overdue, so I am just doing my job,” Hagan responded,
briefly speaking to the room prior to launching the more private
“Conversations with Kay.”
Hagan’s event came just days after a mass shooting in Tuscon, Ariz.,
killed six people and injured 14, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle
Giffords, D-Ariz., at a similar meeting with her constituents.
That attack sparked fear of further attacks on politicians in public
places, but yesterday Hagan told reporters that the violence did not
change her mind about the importance of the state’s residents seeing
“their elected officials one-on-one.”
“But I also think we need to be conscious,” she said, “and understand
the tragedy that occurred in Tucson on Saturday and be absolutely
horrified at what happened.”
Near the door, Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie stood unobtrusively,
keeping a close eye on the room filled with about 60 people.
Plainclothes officers mingled in the crowd, and deputies also kept
outside the door, although no one was searched before entering.
“We are just making sure that everything is OK and there is a
police presence,” he said.
Bobby Outten, the county manager, said that before speaking
the sheriff, he consulted with the senator’s office on Monday about
“There is more than we would have had in the past,” he said.
Prior to winning the seat previously held by Republican Sen. Elizabeth
Dole, Hagan, 57, had represented Guilford County for 10 years in the
Hagan, who has had Wanchese native Melissa Midgett on her staff since
2004, lamented that Manteo’s Marc Basnight, until recently the longtime
Democratic Senate leader in Raleigh, has left politics.
“I personally hate that he’s retiring,” she said. “He has done an
Hagan said that her top priority this Congressional session is
restoring jobs --- additional military contracts in North Carolina was
one suggestion --- and improving the business climate, followed by
reduction of the nation’s debt.
But she also recognized that friction with the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration over a number of issues was a big concern to
Outer Banks watermen.
Sitting with several other Outer Banks fishermen, Dewey Hemilright, who
fishes out of Wanchese, tried to explain the ongoing
with being barred from legally catching striped bass in federal waters,
technically called the EEZ --- Exclusive Economic Zone ---despite that
fishermen say the resource appears to be recovered.
After listening intently to the watermen, Hagan concluded that it would
be a good idea to “bring someone down here with authority” to discuss
the NOAA issues.
“You always hear the politicians talking about jobs, jobs, jobs,”
Hemilright said after Hagan moved away. “This past week, if the EEZ was
open, you’d have instant economic stimulus that wouldn’t cost the
taxpayer any money.”
As could be expected, Hagan also got an earful about the U.S.
Department of the Interior, mostly related to the pending controversial
off-road vehicle management plan in Cape Hatteras National
When Hagan arrived at his table, Buxton resident Bob Davis told her
that he wants funding to be withheld from DOI.
“We’d like to have them replaced with some humans who represent human
needs,” he told the senator. “We need to get back to a recreational
Hagan later said that the livelihoods of commercial fishermen in North
Carolina must be protected, and that the state must have a strong voice
on regional fisheries resource management councils.
In her travels across the state, Hagan said she has rarely heard the
nastiness and partisan divide that some say was reflected in
Arizona. But she did agree that the tighter margins in the
now will require harder work to be effective.
“I think it’s a positive discourse,” she said. “I also think that
people believe we need to come together as a country.”