Editor’s note: First in a series on how the careers of the U.S. Senate candidates have prepared them for the office.
Greg Brannon’s Monday started with two pelvic surgeries at WakeMed and ended at a tea party event in Moore County for his U.S Senate campaign.
In between, the 53-year-old obstetrician saw 46 patients at his Cary office.
Brannon has no political experience. He recently lost a civil lawsuit. And he’s facing seven other candidates, including state House Speaker Thom Tillis, whose supporters have deep pockets, in the Republican primary.
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But he thinks he has the managerial experience and legal knowledge needed to win the primary and ultimately unseat incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan.
He’s run his OB/GYN practice for 21 years, served as medical director for a local pregnancy clinic for eight years and worked at a weight-loss clinic for two years – all while raising seven children, three of whom are adopted.
The N.C. Medical Board website reports no malpractice complaints against Brannon, who says he’s delivered more than 9,000 babies and helped more than 20,000 patients.
He’s continued delivering babies – 250 at last count – since the campaign started and says he’ll keep his practice if elected.
Friends and colleagues say they were not surprised he decided to run; nor will they be surprised if he wins.
They describe him as level-headed and ambitious – someone who has taken risks to help friends and guided them through personal and financial turmoil.
“He knows where he’s going, and he doesn’t let anything get in the way,” said Mike Green, a friend since his high school days in La Mirada, Calif.
Green said when the two met, Brannon already knew he wanted to be a doctor.
“He’s lived kind of the ‘Rocky’ story,” Green added. “He’s a guy who’s competed against the odds and always finds a way.”
Brannon says God called him to run.
“It was Good Friday 2009,” he said. “I was on a run at the beach. I just felt God lay on my heart: November ’14, Hagan’s seat.”
Beliefs shape career
His deeply held religious views – instilled by his mother – have helped shape his career and his life.
Because of his beliefs, Brannon volunteers as medical director of A Hand of Hope pregnancy resource center, which operates in Raleigh and Fuquay-Varina. He plans to continue that role even if elected.
The center uses Brannon’s medical licenses to administer ultrasounds using the machine he donated, said Tonya Baker Nelson, its executive director.
They met years ago when Nelson said she had an unplanned pregnancy at age 23.
She recalls crying and being scared while sitting in a room at Brannon’s practice.
“He just cared,” Nelson said. “He would tell me ‘Enjoy your pregnancy because it’s one of the few opportunities you get to help God with a miracle.’ ”
Nelson says she talks to Brannon whenever the clinic needs him to interpret ultrasound results, which is at least once a week.
“I’ve never seen someone multitask the way he does,” she said.
Brannon and his family have lived in a house off Regency Parkway since 1998, according to property records. The house is valued at $960,000, and Brannon earned about $539,000 last year from his practice and his work at Medi-Weightloss, a weight-loss clinic in Raleigh.
But he came from little and faced challenges.
Despite his desire to be a doctor, he graduated from the University of Southern California in 1982 with what he termed “crummy grades” and had few medical school options. So he enrolled at La Universidad del Noreste in Tampico, Mexico, and transferred to Chicago Medical School in 1986, where he graduated two years later.
He eventually moved to North Carolina to take a job as a clinical professor for the Wake Area Health Education Center.
He resigned after four months to open his own practice and partnered with Dr. Ron Rogers in 1997. In 2009, Rogers left to open his own practice.
Brannon attributed the split to having different visions for the practice: “Ron loves G-Y-N, and I love the variety of everything, and I don’t want to quit O-B.
“There’s a lot of freedom to running a practice by yourself, like running for office,” he said.
Rogers attributed the split to “personal differences” and declined to elaborate.
“We’re not enemies,” Rogers said. “If I saw him walking down the hallway, I wouldn’t turn and walk the other way.”
Constitution is his passion
While Brannon says his career has prepared him to be a senator, it and his other passion – the Constitution – have shaped his politics.
The Affordable Care Act’s impact on his business fueled his desire to run. He didn’t provide specific examples, saying the worst part of the law is “April 15th every year. Isn’t that egregious enough?”
He uses “Obamacare,” which he wants to repeal and not replace, as a conversation starter to educate voters on how the Constitution limits the federal government.
He said he thinks voters will connect with his message of protecting individual sovereignty, which he says the Constitution protects and the Bible endorses.
To spread his constitutional beliefs, Brannon started the website FoundersTruth.org in October 2009, then later took it down. He built a foundation of supporters through his practice and his Bible studies and gained popularity from appearing on the Bill LuMaye radio show on WPTF.
The two years after he decided to run were rough.
In 2010, his mother and only brother died within three months of each other.
A year later, Brannon’s friendship with his medical school classmate, Larry Piazza, fractured when Piazza called his promissory note on a technology company, Neogence Enterprises, that they invested in together.
Piazza and Salvatore Lampuri of Raleigh sued Brannon and Neogence CEO Robert Rice for offering misleading financial advice. A jury last month cleared Rice but ruled that Brannon misled the duo and owes them a combined $250,000, not including attorneys fees.
Brannon is appealing.
Piazza and Lampuri couldn’t be reached for comment.
Rice said Brannon has been a straight shooter since they first teamed up in the mid-’90s. Rice was 24 and needed investors for an augmented reality tech company. They had met through mutual friends at church.
After his initial pitch, Rice said Brannon agreed to invest $60,000 the same day.
“He was always that supportive for me,” Rice said. “And if he disagreed, he’d let know you ... but (he’d say) ‘Let’s talk through it.’ ”
The company died in 1998 because “it was about three years early,” Brannon said.
Another investment, in the cartoon “Speed Racer, Next Generation,” about 10 years ago was more successful, he said.
The cartoon was on TV about two years, Brannon said, but fell apart after a different group produced the film “Speed Racer” in 2008.
“We were really hoping to piggyback on it, and that movie bombed and it just killed us,” he said.
Nonetheless, the political newcomer says he remains passionate about startups.
“I love the dream,” Brannon said. “I love the risk.”