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.

The contenders

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.

Photo by Michelle Nix via Facebook

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.

The also-rans

Gary Ceres

Chimer Davis Clark, Jr.

Graham Boyd

Kevin Baiko

Don Cox. Cox is a country music singer.

Mike Payment

The Democrats

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.

The contenders

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.

Photo by Richard Bew for Congress via Facebook.

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.

Photo by Mayor – Emeritus, Allen Thomas Greenville NC via Facebook.

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 also-rans

Gregory Humphrey

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


  1. Greg Murphy is not in his 5th term. Barely, his first term…. since he got appointed by a bunch of crooked Pitt County GOP members! I remember the night like it was yesterday. When asked his position on easy Republican platform issues (common core, Medicaid expansion, and taxes) his answer was “I’m not sure… please tell me how I should feel!” I can only imagine how he would feel inside that crazy world in DC known as the beltway…..!

    • Dr. Greg Murphy has only been Representative in NC House since 2019 from my research! Representative Murphy has promoted increasing ALL MEDICAL PROCEDURES in the House Health Committee! Cost would increase all Medical and Health Insurance, increase Taxes of all NC Citizens! No vote for Greg Murphy!

  2. Medicaid Murphy is no Republican and will not win this nomination. His downfall is his left leaning record in the General Assembly in regards to medicaid expansion. Medicaid Murphy will be unable to shake this simple fact. Medicaid Murphy should be counted out.

    Speciale will have the support of the far far far far right wing of the party but is he up for a race of this magnitude? My answer is NO and his inability to raise money will be his downfall. The far far far far right blow hards do not get their check books out and represent a mere fraction of the party. Count Speciale out.

    Nix, like others who get involved in the inner-party structure, has an albatross being Vice-Chairman of the NCGOP. This is not a plus and will be a big negative for her in any race she endeavors in because of this. Although all service to the party should be appreciated, it is not, and will be the Downfall for Nix that cant be escaped.

    Mr. Sheppard may be a nice guy and a sitting legislator but the lack of name ID for him in this very large district will be his downfall. Just not enough time to build the brand. And the fact that in Onslow, where Shepard hails from — Phil Law also an Onslow County resident beat Walter Jones there in 2018 by almost 1500 votes. Quite a showing to beat Congressman Jones there in 2018 and gives Law the huge advantage in Onslow headed into April 30th.

    This race is going to come down to name ID and there is nobody with higher name ID on the ballot in this race than Phil Law. Putting together a Congressional race in this short of time with the simple fact that he has Name ID and ballot recognition is something you can’t put a price tag on. It’s worth thousand and thousands of dollars which the others do not have which baffles me why you have him rated a “long-shot”.

    To put Law as a “long shot” for the ones you have as contenders is almost laughable. I might would reconsider this notion if I was the author of this. Seems to be your definition of a contender is a sitting legislator or a party official which aint going to make a hill of beans in eastern NC. Perhaps by getting a little deeper in the weeds instead of identifying names that may have ID in Raleigh but not in the large land mass that is the third district would be of better service to your readers.

  3. “Third party candidates are still not viable in high-profile North Carolina elections.” Especially since “reporters” like you in the lamestream media continue to discount and ignore any alternative to the failed establishment parties. Perhaps if we raised millions of dollars or got special interest groups to endorse us, we’d get your attention. But that is not what Libertarians are about.

    • No Libertarian has run in this district since 2010 and in that race garnered less than 5,000 votes. I’m just being honest.

  4. If you are going to run a supposed breakdown of the candidates, then do it. If you are going to push for who you want elected, say so. This is poor reporting if it is supposed to be honest and complete.


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