Four years ago, then-Republican Tim D’Annunzio first ran for Congress in a controversial 8th District campaign.
Now the Hoke County businessman is back – as a Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate. He faces a rare Libertarian primary with longtime party activist Sean Haugh.
In 2008 D’Annunzio ran as Republican in the district represented by Democrat Larry Kissell. He first made headlines with a “Machine-Gun Social” fundraiser, an event that included a raffle prize of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
D’Annunzio, a self-made millionaire, spent more than a half-million dollars on the race. At one point, only four congressional candidates in the country had spent more.
Few candidates were as outspoken. On his blog, he called President Barack Obama, Sen. Kay Hagan and other Democrats “liberal leftist God haters.” Strongly anti-abortion, he invoked Hitler in attacking the president’s support of abortion rights. “Obama,” he wrote, “will be responsible for killing many more people.”
He had little love for reporters, whom he described as “demon beasts.”
The Larson interview
During a memorable interview on WBT radio, he told host Keith Larson that “there’s a special place in hell for people like you.” Larson called D’Annunzio “a delusional, deranged human being” – and still the interview continued.
At one point, then-GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer took the unheard of step of calling D’Annunzio “unfit for public office at any level.” D’Annunzio eventually lost a runoff to Republican Harold Johnson.
In 2011, he led a tea party insurgency against former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes’ bid for state GOP chairman. A year later, he lost soundly to Democratic Rep. David Price in the 4th District congressional race.
D’Annunzio said Thursday that he’s running to ensure voters have a conservative choice in November.
“To be honest, my running is more or less an insurance policy,” he said, “that even after one of these (Republican) guys may win, I’m going to keep talking conservative principles and conservative solutions to our national problems.”
Disillusioned with Republicans
D’Annunzio said he is disillusioned with a national Republican Party he sees straying from those principles. Among the GOP Senate candidates, he prefers Greg Brannon, a tea party favorite. But Brannon is in a crowded primary against a better-funded opponent in Thom Tillis.
“I just want to make sure that a conservative winds up in the race after the primary,” D’Annunzio said.
A former Army paratrooper, D’Annunzio made a fortune making body armor for U.S. troops and now owns an indoor wind tunnel used for training by skydivers. In a blog called “Christ’s War,” he once described the political battle as “a war to the death.”
That could offer a contrast to Haugh, his Libertarian opponent.
Haugh said he plans to use his campaign “to urge people to turn away from violence as a solution for political or social problems. ... So I’ll be talking about ending wars both real and metaphorical.”