Dr. Joan Perry got a boost this week in the increasingly contentious race with NC Rep. Greg Murphy for the Republican nomination in the Third Congressional District. Joe Anne Jones, the widow of U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, who served the district from 1995 until his death in February, all but endorsed Perry in strong terms that could resonate with people who has supported her husband in the past:
“Dr. Joan and Walter share the same Christian beliefs and staunch conservative values,” Jones said Thursday in Greenville. “That’s what it takes….”
She said Murphy was her husband’s surgeon and “I’ll always be grateful to him for saving his life. But that doesn’t have anything to do with Congress. This is a whole different show.”
Jones did not endorse Perry nor say who she would vote for, but her affection for Perry was clear. She called Perry her “dear friend” and referred to her as “Dr. Joan,” and compared the attacks her husband took from Washington to the ones Perry is facing.
“They’re kindred spirits. Nothing came to Walter more strongly than his faith in God. She’s the same type of person,” Jones said. “I recognize one when I see one.”
However, while Perry has won the headlines this week, there is evidence that Murphy is quietly winning the vote. Through the first two days of early (one stop absentee) voting, turnout in Pitt County has far outpaced that of other large counties in the district. The 579 votes from Pitt more than double the amount from the next highest county (Craven, with 262).
That is well out of proportion to the total votes in the first Republican primary. In the first primary 14.7 percent of all votes cast (6,243 votes) were from Pitt County. The other three largest counties were Onslow with 18.7 percent of all votes cast, Carteret with 15.8 percent, and Craven with 14.9 percent. So far in the second primary, 27.8 percent of all votes cast have been from Pitt County comparted to 9.9 percent from Onslow, 9.1 percent from Carteret and 12.6 percent from Craven.
Pitt County (which is only partially in the Third Congressional District) is home to Murphy’s NC House district and he easily won in the county in the first primary with a 68.9 percent share of the vote. As an established political force in Pitt county, he would have a well-developed list of volunteers and supporters there, so this early surge in the county is likely due at least in part to a strong get-out-the-vote effort by his campaign.
Murphy will have a large advantage if his campaign can maintain the turnout advantage from his home base over the course of the second primary. Even if the turnout gap closes, this early surge in Pitt will free resources the Murphy campaign can use in other areas instead of working on turning out his base. This is precisely the kind of advantage campaigns try to get during early voting.
Election day in the Third Congressional District second primary is July 9. You can follow early voting turnout at Vote Tracker.