Politics & Government

Two GOP doctors going to a runoff in Eastern NC congressional election; Thomas takes Dem race

Medical doctors Greg Murphy, left, and Joan Perry were headed toward a runoff in the Republican primary for U.S. House in Eastern North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District.
Medical doctors Greg Murphy, left, and Joan Perry were headed toward a runoff in the Republican primary for U.S. House in Eastern North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District.

Two doctors will go to a runoff in the Republican primary election to replace Rep. Walter Jones in the U.S. House.

With all precincts in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District reporting unofficial results, urologist and state Rep. Greg Murphy topped the 17-candidate Republican field with 22.5 percent of the vote — short of the 30-percent threshold needed to avoid a run-off. Pediatrician Joan Perry, a first-time candidate, was second at 15.4 percent.

The winner of the primary runoff between Murphy and Perry on July 9 will join Democratic primary winner Allen Thomas, Libertarian winner Tim Harris and Constitution Party candidate Greg Holt in the general election Sept. 10.

The seat is considered a safe Republican one.

“They know I’m in it for the right reasons. They’re thirsty for someone to vote for, not necessarily just someone to vote against,” Murphy, who lives in Greenville, said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Perry, who received outside support from the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List and Winning for Women, said she had widespread support throughout the sprawling district that includes parts or all of 17 counties. Perry confirmed Tuesday night that she would request a runoff in the race.

“I definitely will and I will because that means 75 percent have not voted for Greg Murphy. We won a considerable number of counties,” Perry told The News & Observer Tuesday. “I think I know these people and really care about them. I think many people have said we’re ready for fresh faces in Washington.”

State Rep. Phil Shepard, buoyed by a strong performance in Onslow County, finished third at 12 percent, the only other Republican candidate to receive more than 10 percent of the vote. Another state House member, Michael Speciale, was in fourth place with 9.5 percent.

Former Greenville mayor Thomas, who most recently served as executive director of the North Carolina Global TransPark, won the Democratic nomination with 50 percent of the vote. Retired Marine Richard Bew finished second in the six-candidate field with 25.3 percent, and New Bern mayor Dana E. Outlaw was third at 12.6 percent.

“We felt confident that we had great support,” Thomas said in an interview. “It’s really exhilarating to know we were the top vote getter among all 26 candidates.”

Thomas got 12,912 votes. Murphy received 9,507, but in a field with many more candidates.

Libertarian Harris defeated Shannon W. Bray 75-59.

A Republican who often clashed with party leadership, Jones represented the district from 1995 until his death on Feb. 10 following an illness. Jones’ father — Walter B. Jones, Sr. — represented much of the area in Congress from 1966 until his death in 1992.

Without a Jones on the ballot, the special election attracted a huge field.

Jones won a three-way Republican primary in 2018 and ran unopposed in the general election. He earned 187,901 votes in the general election in 2018, running unopposed in a year without a presidential, gubernatorial or Senate race. President Donald Trump won the district by nearly 24 percentage points in 2016. He won North Carolina by 3.6 percentage points.

The 3rd district is one of two vacant House seats in North Carolina and one of three in the nation. The state board called for a new election in North Carolina’s 9th district after finding evidence of election fraud in the 2018 general election. The primary in the 9th is May 14.


Republicans (results as of 10:20 p.m.):

Greg Murphy 22.54%

Joan Perry 15.44%

Phil Shepard 12.05%

Michael Speciale 9.51%

Phil Law 8.73%

Eric Rouse 7.71%

Jeff Moore 5.40%

Francis X. De Luca 3.94%

Celeste Cairns 3.47%

Chimer Davis Clark, Jr. 2.58%

Michele Nix 2.16%

Graham Boyd 2.12%

Paul Beaumont 1.84%

Mike Payment 1.27%

Don Cox 0.59%

Kevin Baiko 0.40%

Gary Ceres 0.25%


Allen Thomas 50.02%

Richard Bew 25.22%

Dana E. Outlaw 12.62%

Ike Johnson 6.83%

Gregory Humphrey 2.67%

Ernest T. Reeves 2.64%


Tim Harris 55.97%

Shannon W. Bray 44.03%

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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.