WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Robert Brawley has spent his share of time in Raleigh. After serving a combined 20 years as a member of the state House representing parts of Iredell County, Brawley wants to go back to the Capital City. He is one of two candidates challenging incumbent Governor Pat McCrory in the Republican Primary Election on March 15.
Brawley has sharply criticized McCrory for plans to establish toll lanes on Interstate 77 between Charlotte and Mooresville. Several groups, including Mecklenberg County Commissioners, have also voted to oppose the project, asking the Governor to cancel the DOT's contract with the Spanish firm Cintra to build and operate the toll lanes. Brawley calls the contract "a disaster" for the state, and says this is not just an issue for people in Mecklenberg and Iredell counties.
Brawley has never been afraid to go against members of his own party, sometimes to his own detriment. On his campaign website, Brawley mentions a 2014 dispute with then-House Speaker Thom Tillis. Reports vary on the genesis of the disagreement, but it ended with Brawley being removed from the GOP Caucus. Brawley says he was "targeted with a primary challenge by establishment insiders" and lost his re-election bid. He had also been heavily criticized by party leaders during his first stint in the House, when he threatened to back a Democrat for House Speaker. Brawley ultimately voted for a Republican in that balloting, but lost his next re-election bid.
"My campaign slogan has always been "Together We Can", because I've tried to get people to work together," Brawley says. "But yes, I seem to have the anti-establishment and I confess, that kind of helped convince me to get into it. While the reputation seems to be there, I think I've worked very hard to keep people working together. You look at my resume, and the groups we've put together. Am I anti-establishment if I defend the people I represent? If you go back, everything I've done that ended up conflicting with the establishment, I was defending somebody back home."
Brawley is also outspoken against another of McCrory's plans, the $2 billion ConnectNC bond referendum on the primary ballot. Brawley opposes the bond because he says what began as a transportation initiative now offers hundreds of millions for higher education and infrastructure projects.
"If it were under any other circumstances, everybody would be talking about the "pork barrel bill" getting things done in their districts," Brawley said. "If you go through it, that's pretty much what it is, picking out districts so that everyone is going to support it. They talk about it not creating a tax increase. If the bonds are issued at five percent, that's going to cost somebody $100 million a year, just for interest alone. Where is it going to come from?"
Brawley says he would rely on his experience as a legislator if voters give him the opportunity to become the next Governor of North Carolina. But he has other experience he believes would come in handy as well. "I'm also a retired military commander, and I expect to do a little bit of that, too," he said. "My career is a cheerleader, captain of the wrestling team, and military commander. We want to take names, kick butt and cheer about it."