Credit: James Piedad
Credit: James Piedad

For Sue Googe, an uphill political battle is simply the latest in a lifelong series of challenges.

Googe is the Republican candidate taking on favored Democratic incumbent Rep. David Price for North Carolina’s 4th district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is also an immigrant who escaped extreme childhood poverty in a remote mountain region of an island of communist China to immigrate to the United States, where she became a successful entrepreneur.

“When I see an obstacle, I always try to overcome it. That attitude has helped me succeed,” she says. “My tenacity pays off.”

Googe’s life experiences fuel her both her entrepreneurial and political drive. In 2010, she co-founded several real estate investment firms that today manage about $5 million in real estate assets combined (she declined to disclose current revenue figures). And in November of 2015, she launched her congressional campaign on a platform that calls for tax reform, job creation and reduction of national debt, among other fiscally conservative principles.

A Tough Start Fosters Strength

Googe was born and raised on Hainan Island off the southern coast of China. Her childhood was filled with hard labor, she says on her website, and she went without both electricity and running water.

What saved her then is what fuels her now — tenacity.

She honed reading and writing skills, with encouragement from her illiterate parents. In 1998, when she was 26 years old, she came to the United States on a student visa for a post-baccalaureate program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She then embarked upon a 14-year career in software engineering.

But another prospect loomed. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I never really took any steps toward being a company founder,” she says.

She says reading “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” an investment and financial advice book by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter, set her on a new course. Inspired, Googe made her first real estate investment in 2010, at a dark time for the industry. “After the financial meltdown, the real estate market was dead. There was no action, but real estate prices were really low. So I studied, I paid attention.”

She recalled how stricter banking regulations made it difficult for her to get the commercial loan she needed to get her fledgling venture off the ground. “Any bank I called in town turned me down almost immediately.”

In all, she went to eight banks, finding rejection at each turn. “It was quite hard to hope for what I believed in, but I stuck to my guns.” Eventually, Googe did find an investor willing to take a chance on her. Though that first success was hard-won, it led to other triumphs for her growing venture.

Her successes in the business world inspired her to think bigger — and to once again act when she saw a new chance to make an impact.

Entering the Political Arena

Initially, Googe was not passionate about politics, at any level. “I always paid attention, but not as closely as one should,” she says. “Both countries and companies have their ups and downs, and you figure someone else is going to come along and fix it.”

However, no one did, in her eyes. So late last year, Googe decided to step up and run for office. “I needed to figure out exactly what’s going on, why we can’t get things done.”

She once again faced a learning curve. “Just like when I was getting into real estate, when I got into politics, I was brand new, and didn’t know anything about it.” But when it came to preparing for a political campaign, she says her entrepreneurial background helped by making her “basically fearless.”

In June, she won her district comfortably in the Republican primary, besting opponent Teiji Kimball with 71 percent of the vote.

On the Road to Nov. 8

While Googe campaigns, her husband — an entrepreneur himself, who runs a mapping company — is handling the bulk of her business. She spends most of her time knocking on doors and getting her name out in the district. So far, she says, her message of “personal responsibility and government accountability” has been well-received.

Her entrepreneurial experiences not only give her the gumption needed to run her campaign; they also inform her policy proposals. If elected, Googe hopes to help other small business owners by removing regulation and simplifying tax codes.

“Right now, we have a lot of regulations. For example, in North Carolina, there are thousands of professions that require licensing. We need regulation, but we’re over-regulating.” Also, she adds, “our tax system is so complicated to navigate. You basically need to hire a professional to interpret what the government wants.”

Regardless of how the race turns out, Googe is confident in her decision to take action. “I needed to do my part — I can’t just sit aside, not paying attention or only complaining and not doing anything to help. I can be at peace with myself that I did my part, that I tried my best.”