Senate candidates, from left, Greg Brannon, Heather Grant and Mark Harris took part in the Republican U.S. Senate forum Thursday at the Fox and Hound in Huntersville. Photo by Robert Lahser, courtesy of the Charlotte Observer

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Senate candidates, from left, Greg Brannon, Heather Grant and Mark Harris took part in the Republican U.S. Senate forum Thursday at the Fox and Hound in Huntersville. Photo by Robert Lahser, courtesy of the Charlotte Observer

HUNTERSVILLE — Three Republican U.S. Senate candidates Thursday night accused President Barack Obama of overstepping his authority in issuing executive orders, and two all but called for his impeachment.

The three also appealed for smaller government, an end to the Affordable Care Act and the gradual privatization of Social Security.

Their comments came at a forum sponsored by Lake Norman Conservatives, a new group formed in north Mecklenburg County.

More than 120 people packed a room at the Fox and Hound Pub & Grille to hear Greg Brannon, Heather Grant and Mark Harris. House Speaker Thom Tillis was invited but said he had a conflict. Another candidate, Bill Flynn, dropped out of the race.

The forum was the fourth for the three Republicans but the first in Mecklenburg County. Two candidates, Ted Alexander and Edward Kryn, were late entrants and not invited to speak. They all face off in a May 6 primary for the right to face incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan.

Obama was a frequent target.

Grant, a Wilkesboro nurse, acknowledged that there aren’t enough votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate to convict the president if he were impeached by the House.

“By God in 2014 I’m hoping we’re going to have enough,” she said. Republicans must win six seats to take the Senate.

Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, said he’s surprised the House hasn’t begun impeachment proceedings.

“When we get a majority in the United States Senate the president will be held in check or he will be impeached,” Harris said.

Brannon, a Cary physician, said Congress must take powers back from the president.

Brannon said he would end so-called Obamacare by cutting its funding. “If you defund it,” he said, “it will die on the vine.”

Harris called for repealing the law while Grant said she would “attack it from every angle.”

On other issues:

• Brannon and Grant said the federal government has no role in education. Harris said a Department of Education started as a resource for schools has gotten “on steroids and out of control.”

• All three opposed public-private partnerships, particularly toll roads, a sentiment shared by the Lake Norman group.

Harris said taxpayers already have paid for roads and asked, “Why would we want to pay tolls from now until Jesus comes?”

Brannon said he has raised “close to $600,000” in the race. Reports are due Friday, but that would put him closest of all the candidates to Tillis, whose campaign has said he has raised $1.7 million.

At one point, Brannon noted Tillis’ absence.

“Mr. Tillis should be here,” he said. “He’s interviewing for a job. He should be here answering these questions.”

The Charlotte Observer

The Charlotte Observer is one of North Carolina's leading news organizations. It offers regional, state and local news in a daily newspaper and online at www.charlotteobserver.com.

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