— -- ABC News' "14 For 14" project is documenting 14 races that matter between now and November. This page will be updated throughout the year. See the full list of 2014 midterm election contests the ABC News political team is tracking.
First-term Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan rode to victory in 2008 on President Obama’s coattails. Now, she could be headed out of office if voters identify her too closely with the unpopular president and a dysfunctional Congress. Her Republican challenger, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, has flaunted his Washington outsider status, but has to answer for gridlock in Raleigh, as statehouse Republicans spent the summer fighting over the state budget. As a member of the state GOP leadership, Tillis must defend a rightward shift in state politics that has many up in arms in the historically centrist Tar Heel State. For many voters in North Carolina, the choice in November comes down to two unsatisfying options: A senator loyal to an unpopular president, or a leading Republican responsible for Raleigh’s conservative agenda.
North Carolina was one of two states to vote for Obama in 2008 and turn Republican in 2012. In 2008, African-Americans voted in record numbers to support the president. Four years later, Democrats lagged and Republicans mobilized against him. Turnout will prove key in November, and both candidates have worked to court their base while reaching out to North Carolina’s growing number of independent voters. For Tillis, this has meant easing up on some of his more conservative views. In a recent interview, he said the government shutdown last fall was “well-intentioned,” a far cry from his enthusiastic support of the initiative last summer. Hagan has gamely weathered Obamacare attacks through most of the year, and is working to court moderate women by defending her voting record and drawing attention to education cuts in Raleigh under Tillis’ watch. Though millions of dollars have poured into the state on both sides, polling shows the candidates are right where they started the year: Neck-and-neck. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.