Turning up the heat in the U.S. Senate primary, Republican Greg Brannon said a “culture of corruption” would make N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis “unelectable” in November.
“The Democrat attack machine will make easy pickings of his candidacy,” Brannon wrote in a new fundraising letter.
Brannon hit Tillis on several points, including his 2012 decision to give severance pay to two staffers involved in sex scandals.
The attacks are among the sharpest yet in a Republican contest to pick a challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
Eight Republicans are running in the May 6 primary. But Brannon, more than any of his rivals, has tried to make it a two-man race with Tillis, a former Cornelius businessman who has led in fundraising and in most polls.
Tillis spokesman and campaign manager Jordan Shaw called Brannon’s attacks “laughable.”
In his fundraising letter, Brannon laid out four issues he said “Thom Tillis will spend the fall campaign apologizing for.”
One was Tillis’s 2012 decision to give more than $19,000 in severance pay to two House staffers who’d been caught in sex scandals. Tillis defended the payments, saying among other things that the two staffers had periodically worked without pay.
Brannon also suggested Tillis and his wife have an ownership interest in a Lake Norman bank that profits as a result of energy legislation Tillis “rammed through.”
Tillis’s 2010 state ethics disclosure lists he and his wife, Susan, as owners of Aquesta Bank, a Cornelius-based bank. Shaw said Tillis owns a “very small fraction” of bank stock.
The bank has lent money for solar energy projects. Brannon’s campaign points to a 2007 bill designed to promote renewable energy.
The measure passed the House 107-9, with Tillis and most other Republicans in support. Tillis was a backbench, freshman lawmaker in a General Assembly controlled by Democrats.
“All this coming from a guy ... who has strung together one embarrassing episode after another,” Shaw said. “If Greg Brannon wants to talk about unelectability, he should simply look in the mirror.”
Brannon has also left himself open to attacks from critics.
Last month, a Wake County jury found Brannon had misled investors in a technology start-up company. Last week, a judge ordered him to pay a judgment of $454,631. Brannon is appealing.
Also last month, WRAL-TV reported that Brannon had an unpaid property tax bill that wasn’t paid until a reporter brought it to his attention. Records showed he and his wife owed $8,779 on their Cary home.
“Brannon has had his own issues,” said Andrew Taylor, a political scientist at N.C. State University. “It might actually work to the benefit of one of the other candidates who could say, ‘Brannon is saying this, but he’s as bad as Tillis.’ ”