A year before launching his Republican U.S. Senate campaign, Greg Brannon urged people not to vote for the party’s presidential nominee, saying a vote for Mitt Romney would “advance tyranny.”
Brannon also said Romney and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, “despise the Constitution,” as he minimized the differences between the two major parties.
The comments came in a blog that Brannon co-wrote on the website of Founders’ Truth, a group he helped found.
The Cary physician is one of eight Republicans vying in a May 6 primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. In January he acknowledged not voting for Romney, his party’s last presidential nominee.
Brannon, 53, is standing by his statements.
“I’m a lifelong Republican who firmly believes that we will continue to lose elections if we don’t nominate candidates who will stand on principle,” he said in a statement. “Moderate Republicans have given us out-of-control spending, unsustainable debt and bigger government. Enough is enough.”
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It was at a January forum in Winston-Salem that Brannon mentioned not voting for Romney, saying he had supported abortion rights. Romney once supported abortions but said as president he would sign legislation banning them. “You cannot ever waver on life,” Brannon said at the forum.
He used stronger language in the June 2012 post.
“Voters need to vote in light of the obvious truth that no substantial difference exists between Barack Hussein Obama and Willard ‘Mitt’ Romney,” he wrote. “Understanding and applying this simple truth is liberating.
“Casting a vote for either Obama or Romney will advance tyranny since both candidates are committed statists who despise the Constitution … Well meaning but manipulated voters continue to vote for tyranny based upon a terribly misplaced allegiance to the 2 major political parties.”
The “correct practical strategy,” he wrote, would have been to vote for anyone else on the ballot.
“Voting third party,” he said, “will help foster real political change.”
Brannon is a constitutional conservative and a favorite of tea party supporters. He’s been endorsed by U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah. Both Republicans have strong tea party backing.
He wrote the 2012 blog with colleague Rocco Piserchia from Founders’ Truth. It first appeared on the group’s website, founderstruth.org. The website is no longer available.
In 2012 Romney won nearly 2.3 million votes in carrying North Carolina. Some Republicans have criticized Brannon for not supporting him. Others have applauded him for standing on principle.
“You will find a lot of Republican and conservative criticism of Romney that verges on the same sentiment,” said John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation. “(But) saying the word ‘tyranny’ and describing Romney as ‘despising the Constitution’ is a much stronger (statement) from someone trying to win a Republican primary.”
Brannon has raised more money than all but House Speaker Thom Tillis in the Republican primary. A survey last month by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found him tied for second with Heather Grant of Wilkes County.
Last month, a Wake County jury found he misled investors in a proposed startup company and owed them more than $250,000. He pledged to appeal.
In the 2012 blog, Brannon also criticized Republicans – and Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices – for failing to make abortion illegal.
“Abortion is used by the political establishment to manipulate voters,” he wrote. “The facts abundantly demonstrate that the GOP hierarchy has no intention to make abortion illegal.”
In a recent fundraising appeal, Brannon pledged to stand on conviction.
“Unlike my opponents, I don’t believe ‘compromise’ is the way to defeat liberal Democrat Kay Hagan next November,” he wrote. “Compromising on our core conservative principles is what created many of our problems.”
Like Brannon, other tea party-backed candidates are accusing more moderate Republicans of abandoning principle for politics.
On Friday, Arizona Sen. John McCain told fellow GOP Sen. Ted Cruz to apologize to former Sen. Bob Dole. The Texas senator had blamed the failed presidential candidacies of McCain, Romney and Dole on a failure to stand on principle.
Christian Hine, president of a Charlotte tea party group and a Brannon supporter, defended the candidate’s call to put principle over party.
“This is … about what the role of the party is right now and whether or not the entire idea of the party system has actually become part of the problem with American politics,” Hine said. “It is so easy for people to get away without thinking … It’s a lot more complicated than we just owe our allegiance to one side.”
One reason for the tea party’s rise, he said, was the perception that little changed last decade when Republican George W. Bush was in the White House and Republicans controlled Congress.
“Because they happened to be wearing the same jersey that we are they got a pass,” Hine said. “We have to start moving beyond the left-right, Republican-Democrat dichotomy. I think that’s what Greg was trying to point out.”