Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House and Republican nominee for Senate, has had his problems with women. He didn't do himself any favors on that front in his first debate with Sen. Kay Hagan, either:
Tillis was walking a fine line because of gender politics. Tillis has cultivated the image of a tough political scrapper as House speaker, getting into feuds with the likes of the female-dominated N.C. Association of Educators. He was also debating a woman in a culturally conservative region of the country where manners still matter and where Republicans already face a substantial gender gap with women.According to another North Carolina commentator:
He repeatedly addressed Hagan as “Kay,” although he sometimes used Sen. Hagan. Hagan meanwhile always used the more respectful “Speaker Tillis” in addressing her opponent.
Tillis also questioned her ability to do math – a gender stereotype – which led Hagan to say she was insulted and to note that she was a banking vice president and had been responsible as Senate budget chairman for passing the state budget.
Anyone who thinks Tillis went into this debate without anyone on his debate prep team asking, "So, what are we going to call our opponent?" is kidding themselves. It was a conscious decision and Tillis didn't change up the way he referred to her throughout the night - even accidentally, as a slip.The Tillis campaign insists he's just folksy and informal that way, and that since he knows Hagan from their time in the state legislature, he just naturally calls her Kay. But again, these were not off-the-cuff remarks. This was a debate for which he prepared, and clearly made a decision to use the senator's first name. While insulting her ability to do math. Not a good look in a man who not that long ago was accusing another female political opponent of just being emotional.
On the other hand, Tillis tried to pivot from his view that North Carolina should be able to ban birth control and his support for the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision to arguing that birth control pills should be available over the counter (the hot new trend for anti-choice Republican Senate candidates). So, you know, totally pro-woman, except for everything about his record and tendency to condescend and mansplain.