We knew there would be a lot of interest among candidates for the 3rd Congressional District special election — but not this much interest.
More than two dozen candidates have thrown their hat in the ring to succeed U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, who passed away earlier this year after representing eastern North Carolina for more than two decades.
There are 26 to be exact, as of the end of the filing period on Friday. Here we attempt to break them down into the contenders, the long shots and the also-rans.
The primary election is April 30.
The 3rd Congressional District is one of the safer red districts, giving Republicans a huge advantage in the general election. In failing health, Jones had already announced that this would be his final term, meaning a lot of folks had already been lining up campaigns for 2020. And since this is an off-year special election, that means General Assembly members can run without having to sacrifice their current position — only widening the field.
Here’s who you need to know.
Michele Nix. Nix is the former vice chair of the state Republican Party, who dropped out of that position to run for Congress. The investment advisor has long been interested in running for this seat and had positioned herself to be the frontrunner with Jones’s potential endorsement in 2020. In her campaigning, she has closely tied herself to President Donald Trump. Nix is incredibly well connected and will be a force.
Michael Speciale. The four-term N.C. House member from Craven County has carved out a reputation has a hardcore conservative who’s not afraid to speak his mind. In recent years, he has filed a bill to defy the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage and to permit North Carolina to secede from the union. The Chicago native came to North Carolina at age 18 as a member of the U.S. Marines.
Greg Murphy. Murphy is also a House member, in his fifth year representing Pitt County. The doctor also has conservative bonafides, but is not quite as outspoken as Speciale. He has, however, been vocal about curbing the opioid epidemic in North Carolina.
Phil Shepard. The Onslow County representative is the third N.C. House member in the race. Shepard is a Baptist pastor.
The long shots
Francis X. De Luca. A lot of conservatives will know the name — De Luca was the director of the Civitas Institute until recently and is still a thought leader in the field.
Paul Beaumont. He’s a Currituck County commissioner.
Jeff Moore. Moore is a Raleigh journalist and Morehead City native who used to be part of the McCrory administration and who now writes for First in Freedom Daily.
Joan Perry. Perry is a pediatrician who bills herself as a political outsider.
Eric Rouse. Rouse is a Lenoir County commissioner.
Phil Law. Law is a frequent candidate who finished second to Jones in the 2018 primary.
Chimer Davis Clark, Jr.
Don Cox. Cox is a country music singer.
As recently as 2018, the Democrats haven’t even run a candidate in the 3rd Congressional District. There are some surprisingly strong candidates for the special election. It will be tough sledding, but I reckon they have a chance.
Richard Bew. “Otter” just retired after nearly three decades in the Marines, serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Serbia. The colonel also worked as a legislative assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a military-heavy district, Bew could rack up some significant support.
Allen Thomas. Thomas is the former mayor of Greenville and executive director of the Global TransPark in Kinston. While the TransPark’s performance could weaken him in the general election, it also means he’s extremely well-connected.
The long shots
Dana E. Outlaw. Outlaw is the popular mayor of New Bern who garnered nearly 2/3 of the vote in 2017.
Ike Johnson. He’s challenged Rep. George Cleveland for his General Assembly seat in the past. Johnson is also a retired Marine and now runs a mentoring organization in Jacksonville.
Ernest T. Reeves. Reeves is a frequent candidate and retired Army captain from Greenville. He’s typically finished last in primary races he’s entered, like the 2014 and 2016 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate race. However did win the Democratic nomination for this seat in 2016 before getting pounded by Walter Jones.
The third-party candidates
Third party candidates are still not viable in high-profile North Carolina elections.
Greg Holt, Constitution Party
Shannon W. Bray, Libertarian
Tim Harris, Libertarian