A look at the four candidates to replace Walter B. Jones

A look at the four candidates to replace Walter B. Jones

by Wes Wolfe / Special to Neuse News

In less than a month, voters in the 3rd District will send a new person to Congress to represent them. Early voting for that position began on Thursday; Election Day is Tuesday, Sept. 10.

For most of the past 53 years, North Carolina sent a Walter B. Jones to Capitol Hill. Jones Sr. served from Feb. 5, 1966 to Sept. 15, 1992, and Jones Jr. represented the 3rd District from 1994 until his recent death in February. Whether what’s next is the start of a new, defined era or simply another episode in the state’s political history is up to the four people on the ballot.

The district itself, in the Cook Partisan Voting Index, is R+12, which means that compared to the rest of the country, the 3rd District has a 12-point GOP advantage.

That can be hard for others to overcome.

For the ones looking for an upset, South Carolina’s 1st District may end up being the exception that proves the rule, as no one yet has replicated Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham’s success. That district runs with a PVI of R+10, and went to Trump by 12.7 percent in 2016 and 18.3 percent to U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney in 2012.

Greg Murphy, Republican

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In that respect, Greg Murphy could almost be forgiven for doing some early real estate scouting in the nation’s capital. He’s received the backing of influential members of the health care industry and the House Freedom Caucus.

A Greenville urologist, Murphy was born in Raleigh, received his Bachelor’s degree from Davidson and went to medical school at UNC. He later made his home in Greenville in private practice, while going on the faculty of the ECU School of Medicine and serving for a time as chief of staff at Vidant Medical Center.

Murphy was appointed to the state House of Representatives in November 2015 to finish Brian Brown’s term and won election by a double-digit percentages in 2016 and 2018.

In his brief, celebratory remarks following clenching the GOP nomination in the special election primary runoff, Murphy outlined his policy priorities.

“We have one more hurdle to overcome, but I’ll tell you, the 3rd District will not answer to Nancy Pelosi, the 3rd District is not about infanticide, the 3rd District is not about open borders, the 3rd District is here to support our president,” Murphy said. “And, that’s what we’re going to do in the next two months, and we’re going to carry that message forward on Sept. 10 and … I will be honored to be your congressman for Eastern North Carolina.”

Allen Thomas, Democrat

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There are few Democrats east of I-95 that have drawn as much attention for as long as Thomas, who’s been seen as someone who had a lot of potential for higher office. In this race, Thomas chose perhaps the toughest one to run.

As Eastern North Carolina as it gets, Thomas is a Craven County native who received his Bachelor’s degree from ECU, where he was elected student body president. He later received his Master’s from UNC and worked for a time in the state Department of Commerce.

Returning to Greenville in 2003, he worked as a consultant for ECU while running a medical technology company that’s grown substantially in the meantime. He was elected mayor in 2011, and won reelection in 2013 and 2015. He left office in 2017 to take over at the Global TransPark in Kinston.

Thomas’ campaign is heavily geared toward economic development and economic opportunity for the region. In an Aug. 6 interview with Neuse News, Thomas said new life needs to be breathed into the challenges people face across the district. He said needs to be addressed include the “need for technology, the need for jobs, the need for thinking about what your kids and grandkids are going to be able to do in their lives going forward.”

Tim Harris, Libertarian

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It’s tough sledding for those outside of the two dominant parties, but two candidates are taking on that task. One of them is Tim Harris, who was the leading vote-getter in a sparsely-attended Libertarian Party primary.

Harris, a UNC alumnus and a Marine Corps veteran, has worked in engineering and systems administration jobs in the 20 years since leaving the service, and most recently took on the task of Minor League Baseball FieldFX operations, which involves the intersection of modern computer applications and the age-old national pastime.

He’s positioned himself, as he says, as the “peace, prosperity and justice candidate.”

“We have, for many years, and many congresses, had politicians who are more concerned with controlling what happens in your bedroom, controlling what happens in your wallet, controlling what happens in your kitchen, in your church, in your synagogue, in your mosque,” Harris said in an April 9 Neuse News interview. “Controlling how you live your life, how you go about the daily process of being an American. This is wrong and this has got to stop.

“We need to bring the Congress back to its sole role of managing the limited amount of aspects that we give it, managing the limited amount of roles that we have said we want the Congress to do. And, these are primarily foreign affairs, military, and how we spend and how we pay for things.”

Greg Holt, Constitution Party

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Greg Holt is the only person on the September ballot who didn’t have to go through the primary process, taking up the mantle of the Constitution Party.

Holt is originally from Greensboro but makes his home in New Bern. He’s been running a small business supply company in New Bern for the past 17 years, but operating the business overall for around 25 years.

He said in an Aug. 6 Neuse News interview the reason he’s running is to “make sure that we had a conservative candidate on the ballot. Because, I don’t feel like we have one unless I’m there — not a true fiscal conservative.”

Holt said one of the problems with Congress is the professionalization of elective office, that we need people from outside that system to get elected to make a real difference.

The top issues for the campaign are border security, a blanket ban on all abortions, and ending waste in entitlement programs.

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