WENDELL — As the campaign for U.S. Senate inches closer to the primary election, seven of the eight Republican candidates for the position used a Friday night forum to emphasize their differences.
State House Speaker Thom Tillis was the only Republican candidate absent as Ted Alexander, Alex Bradshaw, Greg Brannon, Heather Grant, Mark Harris, Edward Kryn and Jim Snyder took the stage in a packed Hephzibah Baptist Church for a forum sponsored by the East Wake Republican Club
Fielding questions about the national deficit, the Affordable Care Act and federal tax policy, the candidates remained relatively aligned in their policy positions, advocating for fewer federal government regulations and returning more control to the states.
Brannon, a Cary physician, took a swipe at Tillis as he noted that he has enjoyed meeting people while campaigning over the past few months.
“I wish they got to meet Mr. Tillis more as well,” he said, receiving a great deal of audience applause.
Brannon also criticized Tillis’ response to the Affordable Care Act and his approach to maximizing energy resources.
“He wants to put the government in charge of our future energy needs, and in this state, 21.5 percent of future energy must be green,” Brannon said. “That’s cronyism. That’s not a free market.”
Instead, Brannon said he would sell federal land back to states and allow them to determine how it could be used by private entrepreneurs for producing oil, gas and coal.
Each of the candidates referenced their different backgrounds to emphasize their differences.
Bradshaw, a researcher and open source developer from Icard, deviated from more predictable responses, saying he offers the most electable general election platform but then ironically said the same about Alexander.
“My ability as a campaigner is more untested than some of these other candidates,” Bradshaw said. “Mr. Alexander may actually be our most electable candidate.”
“... I know what it’s like to be able to serve the public,” Alexander, former Shelby mayor, told the audience.
Kryn, a retired physician from Clayton, touted his experience working as a doctor with people of all ages. Harris, former pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, spoke about the character he cultivated in his church work.
“I know what it is to work with people of all different ages, all different backgrounds, all different educational standards,” Harris said. “We are standing stronger for a purpose that is greater than ourselves.”
Grant, an urgent care nurse from Wilkesboro, said her service in the Army Nurse Corps has prepared her for the leadership required of a senator.
Brannon likened the experience of serving in public office to that of being a surgeon.
“As a surgeon, when blood is flying, you must go back to your core principles,” he said. “We have got to understand that Constitution backwards and forward.”
That reliance on the Constitution won him points with some of those in attendance.
Bill Carter of Knightdale said he came to the event supporting Brannon because of his adherence to the Constitution.
“(The forum) didn’t sway my opinion, but it broadened it,” he said of the debate. “I’ve got four or five that I really like.”
His wife, Norine Carter, said she was disappointed that all eight Republican candidates weren’t present.
“I think Tillis is too sure of himself,” she said.
Gerry Coleman of Raleigh said he came to meet all the candidates.
“I want to hear them. I’m an American,” he said. “Anyone who’s running for office has a lot of guts.”
On stage, however, some of them wanted to make it clear they had more guts than their opponents.
“I can tell you unequivocally that I believe I am the best trained animal in North Carolina to be your U.S. senator,” Snyder said. “I’ve got the passion, the knowledge, the verve and the courage to do what needs to be done.”