RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Heather Grant got in the U.S. Senate race following a brief military nursing career when she wasn't persuaded to support other early candidates.
Jim Snyder ran unsuccessfully for the job 12 years ago but still believes it's worth speaking out against trade agreements and abortion. Ted Alexander believes his small-town success as a mayor can translate well on Capitol Hill. Retired physician Edward Kryn of Clayton is passionate about health care and religious freedom, while Alex Bradshaw is highlighting intellectual property and foreign policy issues.
The five are among the eight Republicans seeking the party's Senate nomination next month, but are rightly or wrongly often mentioned after candidates Thom Tillis, Mark Harris and Greg Brannon. The three have developed the largest campaign operations, received the most endorsements and raised the most campaign money.
The crowded field gives hope among candidates less familiar to the public of sneaking into a July runoff. The leading vote-getter in the May 6 primary must get more than 40 percent of the vote to advance to the general election to likely challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.
Grant, a family nurse practitioner and the only female GOP candidate, appears to have the best chance of the five to influence the primary's outcome. Entering the race several months before the other four, Grant has campaigned the most regularly at Republican events and was the only one that raised money for the Senate campaign through December, according to federal filings.
Media outlets have invited her to two televised debates in April with other higher-profile candidates. The other four haven't been invited.
The 39-year-old Grant was stationed at Fort Bliss, Tex., where she helped returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. After a medical discharge in 2012, she and her husband returned to Wilkes County.
The federal government was "trying to tell me I couldn't own a weapon, and I wasn't in uniform anymore," Grant told a Greensboro-area Republican meeting. "And now they're telling me how to take care of my patients and what boxes I've got to check so that I can treat them appropriately."
Alexander was mayor of Shelby for eight years until 2011 and almost didn't enter the Senate race after his mother died last year but said "I couldn't stand by to watch my country that I love come down the path that I saw it going."
Alexander, 53, said he's committed to passing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and has signed a pledge to work to repeal the federal health care overhaul law.
A Morganton native, Alexander went to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and later Cornell University, where he got a master's degree in historic preservation. He is now a regional director for Preservation North Carolina. As mayor, crime in Shelby reached a 30-year low, he said.
Snyder, who served briefly in the state legislature in the early 1970s, ran three times for statewide elected office in the last decade, starting in 2002 when he placed a distant second in the GOP U.S. Senate primary to eventual winner Elizabeth Dole. He won the GOP primary for lieutenant governor in 2004 but lost to Democrat Beverly Perdue, and finished second in the GOP primary for the same job in 2008.
The Lexington attorney and author is talking about many of the same issues that he did in 2002, including NAFTA and other trade deals approved by the Senate that he blames for closed North Carolina factories. He said recently that he also wants to shed light on the banking crisis during the Great Recession and "the foreign wars in which we've been engaged."
"We seem to have lost interest in our unborn children," said Snyder, who is against abortion.
Kryn, a retired doctor in Clayton, is concerned about limitations on religious liberties — particularly those he says are caused by the federal health care law. Kryn, who came to the United States 17 years ago, said he brings unique insight on the health care debate by having worked in both the U.S. and Canadian health care systems.
"We need a strong moral compass in this country and I think the Judeo-Christian heritage of this country is a good anchor upon which to place our decisions," he told the Greensboro forum.
Bradshaw, who lives in Icard, said he's been surprised by the campaign's pressures on his time. Bradshaw, who works as a freelance researcher and on open source computer projects, said he's running down savings while he travels to GOP candidate forums.
Bradshaw wanted to add new ideas to the Republican Party's discourse, but instead "I'm thinking I should have tried an article to the National Review," he quipped.