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North Carolina Senate candidates meet in first debate

Thom Tillis, Kay Hagan
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., left, and Republican candidate for Senate Thom Tillis shake hands following a televised debate at UNC-TV studios in Research Triangle...

North Carolina Democratic Senator Kay Hagan and her Republican challenger Thom Tillis squared off in their first televised debate Wednesday night in Raleigh where Tillis painted Hagan as a “rubber stamp" for Harry Reid and Barack Obama.

"You can't vote with Barack Obama 95 percent of the time and say you're a moderate," Tillis said.

Hagan and Tillis are locked in a tight race in a battleground state where control of the Senate hangs in the balance. 

Hagan repeatedly knocked Tillis for his deep cuts to education while giving tax breaks to millionaires at the expense of women, seniors and students. 

"Speaker Tillis feels that those who have the most should have the most help," Hagan said.

Following Tillis’ repeated questioning of Hagan’s math skills, Hagan hit back saying, “I’m actually insulted by his comments. I understand math.”

In the hour-long meeting, where Tillis consistently referred to Senator Hagan as “Kay", Tillis tried to bridge the gender gap and neutralize the charge that Republicans are out of touch with women by pushing an “over the counter” birth control plan. The position, largely criticized by Democrats and women’s groups, is being echoed by many Republican candidates across the country including Senate candidates Cory Gardner in Colorado, Mike McFadden in Minnesota, and Ed Gillespie in Virginia. 

Hagan pushed back by hitting Tillis on his attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

"It's 2014. Why have you worked to make birth control so inaccessible?" Hagan asked. "Speaker Tillis just doesn't understand the needs of women."

Hagan leads Tillis by two points, according to a mid-August USA Today-Suffolk University Poll.