Brannon again sets goal, this time for US Senate

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BURLINGTON, N.C. (AP) - Greg Brannon is approaching his goal of becoming a U.S. senator much the way he did his goal of becoming a doctor - he reads and reads.

He said lackluster grades in college forced him to read textbooks on his own for a year while he worked in a warehouse so he could get into medical school.

And when the Cary obstetrician became worried about the direction of the country following the election of President Barack Obama, he pored over the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers and legislation that tea party adherents vehemently oppose.

The self-proclaimed constitutional conservative says he decided in 2009 to try to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan this year.

“I actually read Obamacare,” Brannon told the Alamance Conservatives gathering recently in Burlington. “I actually read Dodd-Frank. This is not a game to me. I prepared for this.”

As an early personality in the state’s tea party movement, Brannon may have preached his limited-government message more than the seven other GOP candidates seeking to challenge Hagan in November.

The 53-year-old California native is now relying heavily on national tea party notables to raise campaign money or carry his message leading to the May 6 primary. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah as well as the FreedomWorks PAC have endorsed him, while conservative commentator Glenn Beck has fawned over him during radio interviews.

Because Brannon is a doctor, “he knows health care and he knows what’s wrong,” Cathy Lawler, 66, said after attending the Alamance gathering held in a cafeteria meeting room. “I’m impressed by the people that are standing behind him.”

Brannon will have to persuade enough voters that he’s ready for the job when he’s never run for elected office before. Brannon also suffered a setback in February when a civil jury decided he gave false or misleading information to potential investors of a now-defunct technology company. Brannon is appealing.

Other factions within the Republican Party also view tea party senators he’d join as obstructionists. Brannon said his election would help give Paul and Lee - who came to North Carolina in late March to raise money for him - another vote in their corner.

“I said I’ll never compromise on two things - life and the constitutional rule of law,” said Brannon, who strongly opposes abortion.

GOP voters are deciding how much they want their nominee to cooperate on Capitol Hill or draw a line in the sand, said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University. The leading primary candidate must get at least 40 percent to avoid a runoff.

“I think they’re even conflicted themselves,” Taylor said, on “which Republican candidate is best positioned to beat Kay Hagan.”

Brannon’s stump speech is packed with references to Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and the U.S. Constitution, which he quotes articles and clauses by name.

The federal government is overstepping its bounds of authority, failing to help individuals with inalienable rights pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, he says.

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