NOTE: This post has been updated to include candidates from the Libertarian and Constitution parties.
The race to fill the late Rep. Walter Jones’ seat in the NC 3rd Congressional District has 26 registered candidates, with 17 them being Republicans.
The likely front-runners on the Republican side include three representatives from the General Assembly: Dr. Greg Murphy (Pitt), Phil Shepard (Onslow) and Michael Speciale (Craven). With so many Republicans in the race, all three members will likely focus on boosting turnout in their respective state House districts. Another candidate with strong ties to party activists in the district is NC Republican Vice Chair Michele Nix, although many folks in the Republican grass roots make a hobby of hating whoever is in the party leadership, somewhat dampening that advantage.
Other notable entries in the race are Dr. Joan Perry, a politically-connected pediatrician from Kinston; former Civitas Institute President Francis De Luca (Disclosure: In case you are not know what web page you are on, I work for the Civitas Institute.); former Pat McCrory administration official Jeff Moore; and Phil Law, an IT contractor who got almost 30% of the vote in a 2016 primary challenge to Jones.
Map source: NC State Board of Elections
While the six-candidate Democrats field is not quite as star-studded, it is a huge improvement over 2018, when no Democrat chose to run against Jones. There are two candidates with established political bases, Allen Thomas is a former three-term major of Greenville while Dana Outlaw (who is running as a conservative) is the current mayor of New Bern. Another candidate that may get second looks is retired Marine Col. Richard Bew, a former legislative assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His campaign plan appears to be not acting like a Democrat:
“Our fiber is essentially America first, not party first,” he said, describing how military personnel often approach politics….
The midterm success of Democratic candidates who were veterans inspired him. “When I saw folks like that step and run really good campaigns and do so with a different kind of dialogue — one that’s inclusive — and stay on target, the thing that I took most from that is inspiration that this can be done,” Bew said.
Despite Bew’s confidence, the 3rd District will likely remain in Republican hands since the district is considered to be highly favorable to Republicans:
Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball political handicapping site, told the Sentinel that, “We rate the special general election for NC-3 as Safe Republican, at least for now. Donald Trump won the district by 24 points, which is generally outside the range in which Democrats can compete.”
Two other parties will also be on the general election ballot. Greg Holt is the only candidate for the Constitution Party nomination, while Libertarians will choose between cybersecurity expert Shannon Bray and entrepreneur Tim Harris. No candidate from the Green Party filed to run.
The NC Board of Elections has a full list of candidates.
The 3rd District primary will be on April 30. If a second (runoff) primary is needed it will be on July 9. The general election will be either on July 9 or September 10. A second primary is triggered if no candidate gets at least 30% of the vote in the primary. At this point, a second primary on the Republican side seems likely.