Politics & Government

26 candidates, including 17 Republicans, running to replace Walter Jones in Congress

Corrected March 11 to update the number of elected officials, doctors and service members running.

Four political parties. At least seven current elected officials. At least eight service members and three doctors.

The special election to represent North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District has drawn a crowded field — and it faces a short primary season. Twenty-six candidates filed to run in the race to replace the late Rep. Walter Jones, who represented the sprawling Eastern North Carolina district from 1995 until his death on Feb. 10.

The filing period ended at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 8. Candidates needed to pay a filing fee of $1,740 and complete paperwork to run.

The district includes all or part of 17 counties. The primary election will be held April 30. The general election or primary runoff will be July 9. If a runoff is needed, the general election will be Sept. 10.

The 17-member Republican field includes three sitting state lawmakers: state Reps. Greg Murphy, Phil Shepard and Michael Speciale. Two Currituck County commissioners, Paul Beaumont and Mike Payment, are running, as is Eric Rouse, a member of the Lenoir County board of commissioners. Michele Nix resigned her position with the state Republican Party to run.

Francis X. De Luca, the former president of the conservative policy organization Civitas, filed his paperwork on Friday, the final day to enter the race. Joan Perry, a pediatrician, and Kevin Baiko, a physician who is medical director of the North Carolina Cannabis Patient Network, are also running. They join Murphy, a urologic surgeon, as doctors in the field. Phil Law, who ran against Jones in the 2016 and 2018 GOP primaries, is running again.

Other Republicans in the field are Gary Ceres, Chimer Davis Clark, Jr., Graham Boyd, Celeste Cairns, Jeff Moore and Don Cox, a Beaufort County country music singer who unsuccessfully ran for county commissioner in 2014.

Six Democrats declared for the race, including current New Bern mayor Dana E. Outlaw; former Greenville mayor Allen Thomas; and Richard Bew, a retired Marine and former legislative director for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That group also includes Ike Johnson, CEO of a mentoring organization; perennial candidate Ernest T. Reeves, who lost to Jones in the 2016 general election; and Gregory Humphrey.

Shannon W. Bray and Tim Harris are competing for the Libertarian Party nomination.

Greg Holt will be on the ballot in the general election for the Constitution Party.

Johnson, Bew, Law, Speciale, De Luca and Harris served in the Marines. Bray served in the Navy, and Reeves in the Army. The district includes Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

Five candidates filed with a residential address outside of the district: Reeves (Greenville), Boyd (Wake Forest), Moore (Raleigh), De Luca (Cary) and Bray (Apex). Only part of Pitt County and Greenville are in the 3rd district.

The district is considered a safe Republican district by The Cook Political Report, but Jones often voted his conscience. He voted with President Donald Trump a Republican-low 49.3 percent of the time in the first two years of Trump’s term, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. Jones ran unopposed in the 2018 general election and won with more than 67 percent of the vote in 2016 and 2014.

It is one of the largest fields of Republicans in recent years. Rep. Ted Budd won a 17-way primary in 2016 before going on to win the general election in 2016 and 2018. The North Carolina State Board of Elections said in a tweet that it “does not recall a field this big in the recent past.”

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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.
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