Politics & Government

Who’s running to replace Walter Jones in Congress – and when is the election?

Updated March 11 with candidate filings and additional information.

Twenty-six candidates are running in the special election to replace the late Rep. Walter Jones in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. That total includes 17 Republicans, six Democrats, two Libertarians and one Constitution Party candidate.

Republicans: Phil Law, Michele Nix, Michael Speciale, Greg Murphy, Gary Ceres, Chimer Davis Clark Jr., Graham Boyd, Celeste Cairns, Phil Shepard, Paul Beaumont, Jeff Moore, Joan Perry, Kevin Baiko, Francis X. De Luca, Eric Rouse, Don Cox, Mike Payment

Democrats: Ike Johnson, Dana E. Outlaw, Richard Bew, Ernest T. Reeves, Gregory Humphrey, Allen Thomas

Constitution: Greg Holt

Libertarian: Shannon W. Bray, Tim Harris

See below for more information on some of the candidates.

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Jones, a Republican, represented the district from 1995 until his death on Feb. 10. The 76-year-old Jones, who was a Democrat before changing party affiliation prior to the 1994 election, earned a reputation as a independent voice in Congress, often irking those in his own party. He ran unopposed in the 2018 general election.

The primary is set for April 30. The general election will be held July 9. If a primary runoff is needed — the winner must receive 30 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff between the top two finishers — it will be held July 9, and the general election will take place Sept. 10.

The district covers parts or all of 17 counties in Eastern North Carolina.

Who’s running?


Phil Law: Law grew up near Winston-Salem and joined the Marines upon his high school graduation. He saw combat in Iraq and also served in Kosovo and Liberia during his four years in the Marines. A married father of three, Law lives in Jacksonville and works in information technology. He said he will stand behind President Donald Trump on issues, including combating illegal immigration.

“President Trump is fighting for us every day and needs our support, which I will stress each day on the campaign trail. We cannot allow radical Democratic officials to nullify the vote of the people through phony impeachment charges. If this is to become President Trump’s Alamo, then I will stand with him to the very end — win or lose,” Law said in a statement announcing his candidacy on Jan. 14.

Jeff Moore: Moore, who worked in McCrory’s administration on economic and workforce development policy, is a native of Carteret County. Moore, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, worked in financial services and now is a geopolitical risk consultant. He also worked as a reporter for the North State Journal. A married father of two, Moore lists immigration as his top issue.

“The leftist push for amnesty for illegal aliens and protection from law enforcement in sanctuary cities rips at the fabric of civil society. Every town should cooperate fully with ICE, and we should empower those protecting our homeland to do their jobs,” Moore writes on his campaign website.

Greg Murphy: Murphy represents NC House District 9 in the legislature. A urologic surgeon, Murphy is a practicing physician. As a medical missionary, Murphy traveled to Haiti, India and Africa. In the state House, he introduced legislation to stop the misuse of opioids. A married father of three, Murphy attended high school in Raleigh and lives in Greenville. Murphy’s platform includes calls for lower taxes, less government, more liberty and the promotion of personal responsibility.

“I’d love to say we took power away from Washington, D.C., and brought it to Washington, North Carolina. Take the power that has accumulated and amassed in the nation’s capital and give it back to the people and give it back to the states,” Murphy said in an interview with The News & Observer.

Michele Nix: The vice chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, Nix calls herself a “conservative patriot” on her Twitter account. She filed paperwork to run in February. Nix, from Kinston, worked at First Citizens Investor Services for nearly 18 years, according to her LinkedIn account. In October, Nix posted a photo on Instagram that some Democrats called racist. It featured a white hand making the “OK” symbol and a dark-colored hand making a fist.

Phil Shepard: A pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church, Shepard is in his fifth term representing Onslow County in the NC House. He was born in Jacksonville, attended Coastal Carolina Community College and has lived in Onslow County all of his life, he said in a candidate questionnaire last fall.

Michael Speciale: Speciale, who was born in Chicago, is in his fourth term in the NC House representing Craven County. He joined the Marines and spent much of his career at Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point. Speciale is married with two children and eight grandchildren.

Speciale has made headlines throughout his term in the NC House. In 2017, he introduced a bill to make gay marriage illegal again in the state in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The same year, he wanted the state’s constitutional ban on secession dropped. In 2015, Speciale shared a Facebook post that referred to President Barack Obama as “Islamic son of a bitch.” He made fun of a bill aimed at requiring dog breeders to exercise their animals and use humane euthanasia, according to previous News & Observer reporting.

“Exercise on a daily basis — if I kick him across the floor, is that daily exercise?” Speciale said during floor debate in 2013. “Euthanasia performed humanely — so I should choose the ax or the baseball bat?”

Speciale played up those headlines in his campaign announcement.

“He is unapologetic for what he believes and has made media headlines for standing strong for those positions,” the statement said.

• Gary Ceres: Ceres, who lives in Greenville, lists as his campaign slogan “The Working Class Matters” on his Facebook page. In a campaign video, Ceres says he is running for Congress because the “working class has been stretched to the limits.” He said the working class has been forgotten and has its values mocked by those in Washington “in both parties.” He also said he will confront socialism. In the video, Ceres says that he is not the most polished public speaker and not the longest-tenured legislator. He adds: “I am not the person with the highest moral fiber.”

• Chimer Davis Clark Jr.: Clark lives in Morehead City.

• Graham Boyd: Boyd lives in Wake Forest and is executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.

• Celeste Cairns: Cairns lives in Emerald Isle. She is an accountant.

• Paul Beaumont: Beaumont, from Shawboro, is a member of the Currituck County Board of Commissioners.

Joan Perry: A mother of five boys and a pediatrician, Perry is making her first run for office, according to her campaign website. Perry, from Kinston, earned the Morehead Scholarship at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she also attended medical school. Perry served on the UNC Board of Governors, former Gov. Pat McCrory’s transition team and the North Carolina Day Care Commission after being appointed by former Gov. Jim Martin. Perry was once a ranked triathlete. With her husband, Perry launched the Grace Fellowship Church. She highlights her Christian faith throughout the bio on her campaign site.

• Kevin Baiko: A physician, Baiko is medical director for the N.C. Cannabis Patients Network. Baiko, who lives in Moyock, is the founder of Hawaii Compassionate Care. He is a graduate of Eastern Virginia Medical School.

• Francis X. De Luca: De Luca retired in 2018 after 10 years as the president of Civitas, a conservative policy organization. De Luca is a retired Marine, having achieved the rank of colonel. “This job gave me the opportunity to extoll the conservative principles I believe in, serve my state and meet wonderful people from all over North Carolina,” De Luca wrote in an October 2017 letter announcing his Spring 2018 retirement from Civitas.

• Eric Rouse: Rouse is a Lenoir County commissioner from Kinston. His term expires in November 2022. Rouse’s dog, Mako, became an Internet sensation when Rouse and his wife posted a video of Mako laying down inside an ice machine, according to a Kinston.com story.

• Don Cox: Cox, from Belhaven, is a country music singer. His 1994 hit “All Over Town” reached No. 53 on the Billboard country charts.

• Mike Payment: Payment is a member of the Currituck County Board of Commissioners.


Richard Bew: Bew is a retired Marine colonel who served as a pilot in combat assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Europe, and served as chief legislative aide to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He and his wife met at Cherry Point and were married on base. They have two adult children. Bew, 51, told The News & Observer that he was “just not done serving yet.”

Bew said health care is his top priority. His wife survived a major heart ailment early in their marriage thanks to military health care.

“We got great health care instead of going bankrupt,” he said. “We don’t leave Marines or family members behind. We don’t leave Americans behind.”

Bew said he is opposed to offshore drilling, saying that in the military climate change is no longer a debate. “It’s not a question we ask,” Bew said. “We need to shift the conversation to what we’re going to do about that.”

Bew said that Congress has ceded “immense amounts of power” to the executive over decisions about war and peace, and he wants to be part of a Congress that begins to reclaim its constitutional powers. Bew said he would not accept corporate PAC money during his campaign. “Corporate PAC money drowns out individual’s voices,” he said.

• Ike Johnson: Johnson is the CEO and president of Magnanimous Community Mentoring, a group of retired Marines who mentor students in Onslow County. Johnson was a major in the Marines when he retired in 1999 after more than 26 years of service, according to his LinkedIn page.

Dana Outlaw: Outlaw has been mayor of New Bern since 2013 and served on the city’s board of aldermen for two terms. Outlaw, who has a real estate consulting and appraisal business in New Bern, is a past chairman of the North Carolina Appraisal Board. A graduate of East Carolina University, Outlaw is a widowed father of four and grandfather of three. He plays in Cold Biscuit, a rock-country-beach music group.

• Allen Thomas: The former mayor of Greenville announced his candidacy Thursday, the Daily Reflector and other media outlets reported. Thomas served three terms as Greenville mayor before becoming executive director of the North Carolina Global TransPark in 2017. He is married and has three children.

Ernest T. Reeves: Reeves retired from the U.S. Army, where he was a captain and communications officer. He lost to Walter Jones in the 2016 general election for this seat. Reeves ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2014 and 2016, to be mayor of Greenville in 2015 and 2017 and for a statehouse seat in 2018 — but lost each time.

• Gregory Humphrey: Humphrey is the president of Dreadnaught Community Organization and a retired federal worker.

Constitution Party

• Greg Holt: Founder of Cravin-A-Cup, an office, janitorial, bottled water and coffee supply company in New Bern.


Shannon Bray: Bray works for the Department of Defense, according to his campaign website, and lives in Apex, which is outside the 3rd district. Bray served in the U.S. Navy for six years, according to his LinkedIn page, and has worked in a number of information technology positions since. Bray and his wife have three children.

• Tim Harris: Harris, a retired Marine and graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2018.

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Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.