- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race will be remembered for the avalanche of television ads for and against Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis. But the outcome may be decided by workers who pounded the pavement in neighborhoods Saturday in the campaign’s final days.

Outside national groups focused on the environment, abortion, civil rights and taxes and spending and are investing heavily in personal contact with registered voters who usually sit out midterm elections.

They’re hiring thousands of local residents who already believe in their causes to knock on doors, hand out leaflets and urge people who hadn’t already cast ballots to do so Election Day. Others volunteer to make phone calls.

Organizers say personal connection may be the antidote for undecided voters frustrated with the nightly gauntlet of TV commercials in the nation’s most expensive Senate race.

“That personal connection makes a bigger impact than just shoving ads down people’s faces,” said Nick Rivers, North Carolina state canvass director of the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund. It’s spending $5 million to help elect Hagan, most of which is going to voter outreach activities, according to a league official.

Carmen Maddrey of Burlington rang doorbells in a city neighborhood to speak on behalf of the anti-abortion Women’s Speak Out PAC.

Maddrey used a series of questions to call out “the 100-percent pro-abortion Kay Hagan” and urge people to vote for Tillis “because he will stand up against abortion.” The PAC is spending $1.5 million in North Carolina. Its workers have knocked on 144,000 doors since April.

“We are making a difference out here when we have personal contact,” said Maddrey, 54, a school teacher. “Most people, I’ve found, appreciate us coming by.”

Planned Parenthood Votes, a political arm of the women’s health group, has used using similar efforts to support Hagan for her abortion-rights voting record and oppose Tillis, for among other things, for getting laws passed to further restrict the procedure. The issue isn’t necessarily part of the group’s push in the final days, one canvasser said.

Now “our main focus is simply getting out the vote,” Planned Parenthood Votes canvasser Marty Nyholt of Apex said Saturday while visiting homes in Knightdale, east of Raleigh. The group says it’s knocked on more than 300,000 doors.

The League of Conservation Voters is aiming to knock on 640,000 doors since mid-September. They’ve highlighted what they call Hagan’s pro-environmental record and the passage of a bill in the legislature under Tillis’ watch related to the cleanup of Duke Energy coal ash sites.

Although canvassers use smartphones and tablets to track voter contact and map their walks, the work wasn’t easy on a dark, blustery day for Maddrey and Denise McCollough of Greensboro, working for the League of Conservation Voters fund and canvassing a Greensboro neighborhood.

Knocks often went unanswered as dogs barked. Others that did open their doors had already voted.

When Maddrey caught Wesley Cobb outside his home, Cobb said he had received the materials left before. Maddrey wanted assurances the Cobb would vote for Tillis.

“Can we count on that?” Maddrey said.

“Well, maybe,” Cobb said, laughing, but did add “I’m leaning more toward Tillis than I am Hagan.”

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