Brannon verdict could impact US Senate race

Posted February 18, 2014

U.S. Senate candidate (2014) Dr. Greg Brannon, a Cary Republican

— The road to the Republican U.S. Senate nomination got rockier for Dr. Greg Brannon Tuesday when a Wake County jury found him liable for misleading investors in a civil securities fraud case

Although not a criminal verdict, Brannon was found responsible for repaying two investors – one a medical school classmate and the other the husband of a patient in his obstetrics practice – the $250,000 plus interest they lost in a technology start-up. Brannon served on the company's board and actively recruited the two men to invest. 

The judgment was especially stinging because Brannon's co-defendant, company co-founder Robert Rice, was found not liable on the same allegations weighed by the same jury. 

"It can't have an positive impact for Brannon," said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University. "What makes it especially problematic is that the Brannon campaign is based on fiscal policy – issues of fiscal prudence, a steady hand and care of the public purse. This is essentially a verdict that speaks directly to that." 

Brannon is one of at least five Republicans who say they are running to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. The other candidates are state House Speaker Thom Tillis, Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant and former Shelby Mayor Ted Alexander.

In the wake of the judgment, Brannon vowed he would appeal and said that the trial had not treated him fairly. He also said that the jury's decision would not derail his plans to run for U.S. Senate and that he would officially file the paperwork to get on the ballot later this week. He has already filed papers with the Federal Elections Commission that allow him to raise money and legally conduct a federal campaign. 

Tillis is the best funded and most well known of the candidates. Brannon and Harris are his best-funded challengers. Brannon has attracted backing from tea party groups such as FreedomWorks and is popular with "constitutional conservatives," who see controlling federal spending as a top issue. Harris, a former president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, has also portrayed himself as a fiscal conservative but has also played up his credentials as a social conservative. Harris was endorsed Tuesday by the National Organization for Marriage. 

"This might help Mark Harris more than anybody else because Harris and Brannon are the two candidates that have the most chance of being able to pass themselves off as the true alternatives to Thom Tillis," Taylor said.

Due to his role in the state legislature and backing from the likes or mainstream conservatives such as Karl Rove, Tillis has been labeled as the "establishment" Republican by many in his party, a term that can be seen as a stamp of approval or term of disparagement, depending on whose wielding it.

The North Carolina primary is May 6. In order to avoid a runoff, candidates must win with at least 40 percent of the vote. If a candidate doesn't hit that 40 percent mark, the second place finisher can call for a runoff. The conventional wisdom is that Tillis is hoping to make that 40 percent threshold, while Harris and Brannon have the best shot at having a good enough showing to force a runoff. 

In order to get to that position, candidates will need volunteers and money. Tuesday's judgment could make donors hesitant to give to the Brannon campaign, said Joe Stewart, a former lobbyist and political director who now heads the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit that analyzes political races in North Carolina. 

"There's only a certain amount of oxygen in the room when you're doing fundraising," Stewart said. "If you're having to explain a verdict and why it shouldn't be a concern, it leaves very little oxygen in the room for the actual, straightforward request for a financial contribution." 

Asked if there was any silver-lining for Brannon, Stewart said there is a school of thought that any press for a candidate – particularly one not seen as the front-runner – can be helpful. He pointed out that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's polling numbers in the critical presidential primary state of New Hampshire didn't decline after a recent bridge closure scandal. 

But, he said, a story that deals with financial mismanagement may strike a chord with voters, particularly with a five-member field where they have other choices. Voters shopping for a "non-Tillis" alternative who may be on the fence, he said, could be pushed into Harris' camp.

"It's the kind of thing that makes voters go, 'OK, next!'" Stewart said. 

Neither the Tillis campaign nor the Harris campaign had much to say about Tuesday's judgment. 

"We don't have anything to add," said Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw. "The facts of the case and the finding of the jury speak for themselves." 

That doesn't guarantee opponents will completely pass on the issue. Political observers say this kind of judgment is ripe material for campaign ads, particularly if the race gets close. 

"Generally, candidates do not want to hand their opponents issues or allegations on a silver platter," said Michael Bitzer, provost and assistant professor of politics at Catawba College. "This seems to be that silver platter just waiting for other Republicans to use to attack him."


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  • Just Ice Feb 20, 2014

    ALECARILINA - "what is ya, a COMMUNIST or somethin'?"

    Lighten up Francis.

  • ALECarolina Feb 20, 2014

    ........and if sticks in your reactionary craw that them "librul unions" are financing PACs to counter the assault on America by your fascist heroes......remember that YOUR side started it.

    How you can maintain a straight face while blasting the very people who BUILT this nation for defending themselves against corporate tyranny is astonishing......what is ya, a COMMUNIST or somethin'?

  • ALECarolina Feb 20, 2014

    Thanks for confirming that you don't "get" it.

    The CONSERVATIVES invented the concept of the "corporate voter" having a greater voice in IT'S government than the INDIVIDUAL voter has in HIS. They added insult to injury by claiming that these "corporate people" could trump the INDIVIDUAL voter by spending vast ANONYMOUS amounts of "Free $peech" to combat those "evil labor unions" made up of individual WORKING PEOPLE, who formed said unions to prevent this kind of fascist bullying by "corporate people" in the first place. How very disingenuous of you to claim amnesia on this well-known FACT.

    The CONSERVATIVE Supreme Court upheld this scurrilous and outrageous blasphemy against the American worker.....and these scoundrels who benefit from "Citizens United" have effectively returned this great nation to a dark age where the working class struggles to survive, and the "corporate people" enjoy record profits........by convincing you and your ilk that "libruls" (unions) HATE America.

  • Just Ice Feb 20, 2014

    So what is The Senate Majority PAC and why do they support Hagan?

    Dem super-PAC launches ad defending Hagan in North Carolina, By Cameron Joseph, November 05, 2013

    "The Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group, is launching a television ad to defend Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) against attacks from another outside group."


    Why has this group, described as having a liberal viewpoint, spent $3,850,173 on federal elections and specifically targeted Kay Hagan with $1,408,655 of that amount in outside spending?


  • Just Ice Feb 20, 2014

    ALECarolina - "The truth will prevail....it ALWAYS does."

    Here's a liitle bit of that truth for you.

    It turns out the 'Evil' Koch Bros. are only the 59th biggest donors in American politics. Can you guess who is number one? By Mark Tapscott, FEBRUARY 14, 2014

    "So who occupies the 58 spots ahead of the Evil Koch Bros? Six of the top 10 are … wait for it … unions. They gave more than $278 million, with most of it going to Democrats."

    "These are familiar names: AFSCME ($60.6 million), NEA ($53.5 million), IBEW ($44.4 million), UAW ($41.6 million), Carpenters & Joiners ($39.2 million) and SEIU ($38.3 million)."

    "In other words, the six biggest union donors in American politics gave 15 times more to mostly Democrats than the Evil Koch Bros."


    So who is exercising there unlimited free speech for Haga

  • ALECarolina Feb 20, 2014

    A sure-fire way to induce a stroke in the typical reactionary is to ask them, "Why does the financial backing for the Tea Party and Americans With Prosperity have an interest in whether or not folks in North Carolina (or ANY other state) have affordable health insurance?"

    While they're sputtering the official talking points, remind them that Citizen Koch is insulting their intelligence by their use of "Obamacare-Kay Hagan, BOO!" to manipulate them into voting against their own best interests by putting Thom "ALEC Legislator Of The Year" Tillis in the US Senate, where he'll rubber stamp billionaire "job creator" -friendly legislation that will maximize their profits.

    It has ZERO to do with Obamacare, Kay Hagan, or jobs......and EVERYTHING to do with "Corporate People" exercising their "Unlimited Free $peech" to purchase the puppets like Thom Tillis who will do their bidding.

    The truth will prevail....it ALWAYS does.

  • Just Ice Feb 20, 2014

    The national goals for Republicans in the 2014 elections are a Republican majority in the Senate and an even greater majority in the House. The local/state goal is to fire/replace Kay Hagan. Republicans need to stay focused on those goals and set aside any and all personal ambitions. With news like this, it's the Republican's' seat to lose.

    Senate Democrats: Why Didn’t Someone Tell Us Obamacare Would Cut Medicare?, By Jim Geraghty, February 20, 2014

    "In 2009, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) promised North Carolinians who depend on Medicare that she was going to “protect Medicare” and that they would “not see a drop in their Medicare coverage.”

    "But in 2010 Kay Hagan voted to slash Medicare Advantage to pay for ObamaCare. (H.R. 4872, CQ Vote #72: Motion agreed to 56-42: R 0-40; D 54-2; I 2-0, 3/24/10, Hagan Voted Yea)


    Make Democrats run o

  • Charlie Watkins Feb 20, 2014
    user avatar

    The question remains:

    Why not take the stand and give your side of the story "in your own words?"That is most troubling of a candidate for the United States Senate.

  • Greg Boop Feb 20, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I will assume that you are the Robert Rice mentioned in the article. I will give you credit for publicly stepping up to defend your friend and colleague.

    The appeals process is lengthy and uncertain. The reality at this point is that Mr. Brannon needs to step out of the Senate race. With this case hanging over him - he is not a viable candidate for the primary, nor can he effectively challenge the Democratic incumbent in the general election.

  • Charlie Watkins Feb 20, 2014
    user avatar

    If Brannon runs a good campaign he will not beat Tillis but he may be able to keep Tillis from winning against Kay.

    Brannon is Kay Hagan's best chance to retain her seat. But we have seen it before. Republicans would rather fight each other than the Democrats.