By Jim EllisApril 30, 2019 — The first ballots in the three special congressional elections will be cast in today’s primary election in North Carolina’s 3rd District. By tonight, we will have some semblance of order among the 17 Republican candidates and six Democrats.
The passing of veteran Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) in February precipitated this election with the eventual winner serving the balance of the 13-term congressman’s final legislative session. In November, Jones was unopposed for re-election.
Of the 17 Republicans, only seven candidates had even raised $100,000 by the April 10 filing deadline or have substantial outside backing. In fact, two of the three sitting state Representatives didn’t even make the $100,000 threshold. Three candidates are getting outside support from conservative organizations.
For the Democrats, two candidates exceeded the $100,000 mark for a district race that the party nominee hasn’t won since 1992. Former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas and retired Marine Corps Colonel Richard Bew are the pair who have done so, with Thomas more than doubling Col. Bew’s financial assets.
If no candidate exceeds 30 percent of the vote in today’s primary the top two finishers will then advance to July 9 run-off elections. If either party is forced to the secondary election, the special general will be held Sept. 10. If electorates from both parties nominate outright, the special general then moves to the July 9 date. North Carolina has an early voting law, and the pre-election ballot casting period ended on Friday.
For Republicans, the leading fundraiser with over $315,000 raised earlier in the month is state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville). So far, most of his expenditures appear targeted toward electronic advertising, mostly in radio.
Joan Perry is a practicing physician and former appointed member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. She had obtained over $154,000 in early April, all but $30,000 from donors. The Susan B. Anthony Fund and the Winning for Women organization are combining to spend over $200,000 in her behalf.
Accountant Celeste Cairns is the cousin of freshman Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) and supported by independent expenditures from two outside organizations, the Club for Growth and the Awake Carolina Political Action Committee. The two will combine for approximately $300,000 in spending. Ms. Cairns, however, had raised only $75,000 for her own campaign through the early April disclosure deadline.
Lenoir County Commissioner Michael Rouse was the first to hit the television airwaves and did so with ads saying that “Rouse in the House will protect President Trump’s back.” Rouse had more than $147,000 raised by April 10, with $101,000 being self-contributed.
Retired Marine Corps Colonel Francis DeLuca comes from the North Carolina-based Civitas Institute conservative think tank. He raised just under $120,000 and reviews of his performance on the campaign trail have been positive.
Businessman Chimer Clark’s self-contribution accounts for almost three-quarters of the $111,000 he reported on April 10th. He is a first-time candidate.
Consultant and former Pat McCrory gubernatorial aide Jeff Moore raised just over $100,000 but is getting a boost of at least $50,000 from the Revive America PAC, a group that also supported US Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in the election cycle just concluded.
It is likely that the GOP nominee will come from this group of seven, and it is probable that two from the aforementioned list will head to a secondary run-off election.
For the Democrats, fundraising and campaign activity suggests that former Mayor Thomas and Col. Bew will finish first and second but whether either reaches the 30 percent plateau remains an unanswered question.
Thomas, who raised more than $255,000 and who has electoral experience, may be the man to beat, but a state auditor’s report released late last week that questioned his stewardship of the non-profit organization Global Transpark could cost him some votes today. It is a certainty that we will hear more about the auditor’s findings in the special general should Thomas become his party’s nominee.
North Carolina’s 3rd District encompasses most of North Carolina’s coastal region, including the Outer Banks. The three largest population centers are Greenville (part), Jacksonville, and New Bern. In 2016, the electorate voted for President Trump in a 60-37 percent split. Four years earlier, Mitt Romney carried the district over President Obama in a 58-41 percent count.