NC-03 – The Republican primary runoff for North Carolina’s Third Congressional District special election is a mere few weeks away and candidates Joan Perry and Greg Murphy, both doctors, are busy making their case to Republican voters of eastern North Carolina. The race to fulfill the remainder of late Congressman Walter Jones’ term, following his death earlier this year, has featured an unusual battle of endorsements. Not that comparing endorsements isn’t common, but because those doing the endorsing aren’t typically in opposition to each other.
Perry, a pediatrician from Kinston, is endorsed by Freedomworks; Murphy, a urologist from Greenville, has the backing of the House Freedom Caucus. Murphy’s campaign includes key components of Jones’ former campaign staff; Perry had a press conference Thursday with Joe Anne Jones, the widow of Walter Jones.
The Murphy campaign had previously said that Walter Jones planned to endorse him in his originally planned 2020 run for the seat. (Jones had publicly proclaimed he would not run for reelection in 2020)
To be sure, Mrs. Jones said she was not technically endorsing either candidate, saying, “As far as endorsing, I’m not going to tell you how I’m going to vote, either. That’s my business.” She said her late husband would not have endorsed during the primary either, however, it does not take much skill in reading between the lines to figure where Mrs. Jones support lies.
“Dr. Joan and Walter share the same Christian beliefs and staunch conservative values. That’s what it takes. […] She has integrity, she has Christian faith, she wants to represent eastern North Carolina, and I’m sure the other person would say the same thing, but saying and doing are two different things. You’ve gotta walk the walk, if you talk the talk.”
She went on to say that while Dr. Greg Murphy was actually Walter Jones’ surgeon, and she’ll always appreciate his taking care of him, that such had nothing to do with politics, and she wanted to clear up ‘misconceptions’ about who the late Congressman from Farmville would have endorsed. Of her late husband and Perry, Joe Anne Jones said they were, “kindred spirits.”
Meanwhile, Murphy surrogates, such as initial primary candidate and former Vice Chair of the NCGOP Michelle Nix, are slamming the Perry campaign for employing identity politics, a calling card of the Left.
Nix calls Perry endorsers “sexists” and “left leaning moderates,” presumably because they are endorsing her merely because she is a woman. (Nix does not expound upon why she herself was meeting with these same groups during her own campaign for the nomination considering her apparent distaste for them, but I digress.) Still, groups like ‘Women for Women,’ who are endorsing Perry and running dubious ads against Murphy, are definitely fully engaged in identity politics and have a record of supporting moderate Republicans for congress. That point has been made by N.C. Congressman and chair of the House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows, who has endorsed Murphy.
House Freedom Action, the PAC for the House Freedom Fund, ran ads calling Perry a ‘lying Nancy Pelosi liberal.’ Meadows, too, has said he considered Perry’s initial response to questions about President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration on the border “troubling,” adding that she “sided with Thom Tillis and the Democrats against the President of the United States on securing our border.”
(An aside: This confirms Tillis’ unpopularity and poor reelection prospects when prominent members of his own Republican state congressional delegation are attacking those that associate with him.)
Meadows, while representing western North Carolina, is popular among conservatives across eastern North Carolina. He’s endorsed Murphy emphatically, saying of Murphy in an interview with the News & Observer that, “I’m 100 percent confident that if I need a fighter here in Washington, D.C., he will be a fighter. I’m not 99 percent confident. I’m not 95 percent confident. I know that when push comes to shove, and we’re going to drain the swamp, he’ll be there.”
Meanwhile, another North Carolina Congressman, Republican George Holding, has endorsed Perry and State House Member Phil Shephard (R-Onslow), who finished third among the 17 candidates in the first primary, is holding an event Friday to endorse Perry, according to her campaign.
The two camps have a little less than three weeks to make their case and tout their respective endorsements. Republicans across the Third District that have yet to make up their mind, will do their best to weigh each candidate’s character, conservative credentials, and, of course, endorsements in order make the best decision on July 9.