State Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Mooresville, is fighting to retain his seat Tuesday against a longtime textile industry executive who contends Brawley hurt his constituents by feuding with the Republican House leadership.
Brawley represents the 95th House District that includes southern and most of eastern Iredell County.
His opponent in Tuesday’s Republican primary is political newcomer John Fraley, who describes himself as a successful 40-year businessman, strong conservative and an education advocate who will push for lower taxes, fewer regulations and pro-teacher legislation.
Fraley raised $136,000, including loaning his campaign $75,000, campaign finance records show. Brawley raised just more than $8,300.
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Fraley’s political mailings knock Brawley’s ranking of 76th out of 77 GOP legislators in effectiveness by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.
The mailings cite how Brawley backed Democrat Jim Black of Matthews as House speaker in the 1990s in exchange for Black supporting Brawley as speaker pro tem. Black was later convicted and imprisoned on lobbying law violations.
After a 14-year absence from the legislature, Brawley returned in 2013 and in four months “picked a fight” with House Speaker Thom Tillis, Fraley’s mailings say.
Brawley chaired the influential House Finance Committee until turning in his gavel after publicly criticizing Tillis.
The mailings also cite Brawley sponsoring a bill in 2013 to allow lobbyists to legally give gifts to lawmakers.
Brawley replied to the attacks in a recent email to the Observer and other media.
“I have no intentions of getting in the gutter with my opponent,” Brawley said. “The closest I will come is, he did vote in the 2008 Democratic primary and only became a Republican 120 days before he filed against me. I am a lifelong Republican and believe in Traditional American values.”
Brawley said he’s received two legislator-of-the-year awards this year and has “the support and encouragement of the Republican Caucus in the General Assembly.”
One of the awards came April 1 from Toll Free NC, the Cornelius-based group opposed to toll roads.
The group said Brawley “stands on principle and speaks the truth even when it’s against his party.” Brawley opposes the planned Interstate 77 toll lanes between Charlotte and Mooresville.
In another recent email to the media, Brawley said voters in Tuesday’s primary and the general election will vote against toll road supporters.
He said N.C. Department of Transportation officials told him that tolling Interstate 77 from the Brookshire Freeway in Charlotte to Exit 36 in Mooresville “is the beginning of tolling every major corridor in NC, indicating I-95 might be next.” Staff writer Jim Morrill contributed.