Raleigh, N.C. — When former state Rep. Robert Brawley last served in the legislature, he was a thorn in the side of legislative leaders. Now, he hopes to create a prickly situation for Gov. Pat McCrory.
The insurance agent from Statesville used Facebook Wednesday morning to announce he will challenge the Republican incumbent in the March 15 primary.
"Today, I will be in Raleigh filing to be your next Governor of North Carolina," Brawley wrote. "If you have questions or suggestions I will be listening."
Brawley could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday morning. He told his hometown newspaper that he was motivated to run by his opposition to state Department of Transportation plans for toll lanes for Interstate 77 near Charlotte.
"But there are other reasons for what I’m doing," he told the paper. "I want to put the emphasis back on the constitutional requirement that we provide a public education to all people."
Later Wednesday afternoon, Brawley's campaign sent a news release saying that he had heard from numerous voters about "preferential treatment" for certain special interests.
“The people of North Carolina deserve leadership that will look out for their interests, not deep pocketed special interests. I want to thank Governor McCrory for many of the good things he’s done but I feel strongly that there are concerns that must be addressed,” Brawley said in the news release.
Brawley served 19 years in the General Assembly. During the 2013-14 term, he publicly tangled with House leaders, particularly then-Speaker Thom Tillis.He blasted Tillis for pushing him to back a bill sought by major campaign donors that would curb municipally-owned broadband services and backing a measure for bail bondsmen despite conflicts of interest. He was asked to stop participating in closed-door House Republican caucus meetings because he would not keep the conversations confidential.
"They still have not told me what I am guilty of, except speaking free speech," Brawley said at the time.
McCrory uses video to announce re-election run In May 2014, he lost a primary, quashing his bid for re-election.
This year, Brawley had considered a run to retake his legislative seat, but has jumped into the governor's race instead.
From a practical standpoint, Brawley faces an uphill battle. McCrory has been raising money for months and will have the support of many, if not most, mainstream North Carolina Republican figures. But the unusual challenge – it's rare for incumbent governors to face primary battles from established figures within their own party – will force the governor's campaign to spend at least some time and money on the primary over the next three months rather than simply preparing unfettered for the 2016 general election.
His nascent bid is already getting pushback.
"As a former state legislator who worked closely with Robert Brawley, I can say that by any measure, Robert Brawley is not fit to hold the office he seeks," said former state Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, who at one point held a top leadership position for House Republicans. "Not only was he untrustworthy and ineffective as a legislator, he routinely attacked conservatives and the principles we hold dear. In the end, his campaign will be exposed for what it is: nothing more than another opportunity to promote himself and attack others, not help advance what is best for North Carolina."