by Jordan Green
1. Ted Alexander
Jeff Martin, who blogs at the Detonator, has said that Greensboro is governed from its country clubs. If that’s somewhat overstated, it’s certainly the case that the local GOP under the energetic leadership of the Greater Greensboro Republican Women’s Club has vetted its nominees from Starmount Country Club for the past couple years. Several GOP hopefuls took turns making their case on March 25 for why they are the best qualified to challenge Democrat Kay Hagan for US Senate in November. Ted Alexander’s sugary drawl reminded me of Lee Adams, a photographer with whom I worked for a short period almost 10 years ago. Adams hails from Shelby and Alexander is a former mayor of the city. Alexander projects a gentle and kindly bearing that’s somewhat at odds with the strident anti-Obama message that seems to be a requirement for any Republican contender. Imagine a Mr. Rogers from the North Carolina foothills saying, “It hurts my heart when I see the place where our country is these days and how we have come so far in just a few six years. We’ve seen Obamacare take over one-sixth of our economy. This must be repealed. Period.” Then there’s this piece of conservative victimology: “One of the things we see now is people of the Christian faith or those who hold Judeo-Christian beliefs, we see them basically impugned and say that we are part of the problem — that somehow or another because we happen to be pro-life or because we are pro-traditional marriage that somehow we are haters, that we are part of the problem and we don’t have a right to our opinions.”
2. Greg Brannon
Cary OB/GYN Greg Brannon is tied with state House Speaker Thom Tillis (more on him later) for the lead in the Republican primary, and enjoys the support of Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, as opposed to Tillis’ establishment backing from Karl Rove. Brannon’s pitch is somewhat mesmerizing in person, but difficult to quote in its tangential layering technique. He opened with reference to a “constitutional crisis,” discussed founding documents, harped on federal overreach through Obamacare and Common Core, highlighted his opposition to abortion and noted the GOP’s status as the original party of civil rights while weaving in elements of his family story (“…seven children, six girls and a boy, been blessed to adopt the last few from China, two of ’em with cleft palates”). When asked about a recent court ruling that Brannon misled investors of a failed startup, the candidate seemed unflappable. He said he believes he’ll be vindicated ultimately and that unfortunately he can’t make any comment while the case is under appeal.
3. Heather Grant
Heather Grant is the only woman in the race and the youngest candidate. In a field of doctors, a lawyer and power pastor, she holds an appealing biography as a nurse who signed up for military service and took responsibility for behavioral healthcare in the ranks after an injury sidelined her from staff. Grant garnered some of the loudest applause, and is probably the candidate that Hagan should least want to face in November. No matter what your ideology, it’s hard not to admire her service, and she comes across as sincere. “Our government would just as soon turn a blind eye to the problems that those men and women are coming home and dealing with,” she said. “I know: I fought every single day for us to do the right thing. I sat in a room full of colonels and a general and said, ‘With all due respect, sirs’ — I’m a second lieutenant — I said, ‘With all due respect, you are wrong. This is a perception; the reality is, I walked five soldiers last week to behavioral health because they were suicidal.’”
4. Mark Harris
An active force in last year’s voter referendum to enshrine the North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution, the Rev. Mark Harris has a bit of the studious look seen in mainline Protestant clergy — both Caucasian and African American — across the mid-South. He holds his hands together against his lips in a prayerful gesture that quickly transforms into applause to recognize a fellow speaker’s comments. In many ways, the race is a national proxy battle for the direction of the party; as Rove is backing Tillis and Paul is backing Brannon, Harris has received the endorsement of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
5. Edward Kryn
A retired physician from Clayton, Dr. Edward Kryn’s opening statement consists almost entirely of medical observations about abortion. He comes across as more interested in debating than wheeling and dealing, and said as much in his concluding remarks: “These kinds of observations, I believe, merit more public discussion so that women can make informed decisions based on the facts. And I would like to take the whole concept of truth to other areas as your senator to Washington.” The candidate’s website sheds more light on his motivation to run for elective office.“I left medicine in Canada as I saw my own profession embark on a secular path that turned its back on the Hippocratic Oath as it came to embrace abortion and the homosexual agenda,” Kryn writes.
6. Jim Snyder
A sole-practitioner lawyer in Lexington, 68-year-old Jim Snyder hearkens back to the old school of North Carolina Republican politics, having challenged Elizabeth Dole in the Republican senatorial primary of 2002 and then running unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor two years later. He told the audience at Starmount that he filed after recovering from an illness, having vowed from his bed at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem to get into the fight. He received loud applause when he declared that abortion is “the salient issue of the 21st Century, just as slavery was the salient issue of the 19th Century,” but not so much when he followed with, “We Americans don’t seem to care so much about rendition, about waterboarding, about torture… and assassination by these drones. I know it’s a tough time, but that’s what the Nazis did.”
7. Thom Tillis
In absentia, state House Speaker Thom Tillis was represented by Dr. Brannon. “We are interviewing for a job, and my lobbyists are right here,” Brannon said. “They’re not on K Street or Jones Street; they’re here. And if you don’t have the respect or you’re too timid to come to these forums or debates, that should tell you something. Why is Mr. Tillis not here?”