North Carolina Special Election Runoff Pits Conservative Doctor Against Doctor Opposed to Trump’s Emergency Border Wall Declaration

Collage of Dr. Joan Perry and Dr. Greg Murphy, who will face a runoff election in July for North Carolina's 3rd Congressional District.

Voters in Tuesday’s special election primary in North Carolina’s Third Congressional District sent two GOP candidates to a runoff in July, both doctors, including one who won national conservative leaders to his side and one opposed to President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Dr. Greg Murphy, with 23 percent of the vote in a 17-way field, came solidly in first place in the special primary election. In second place was Dr. Joan Perry, with about 14 percent of the vote. Since no candidate received more than 30 percent of the vote, the threshold required to avoid a runoff, a runoff between the two will take place on July 9.

On the Democrat side, Allen Thomas won his party’s nomination outright and will face the Murphy-Perry winner in the general election on September 10 in a solidly conservative deep-red district that was represented for many years by the late Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). Jones’s passing this year triggered the special election to replace him.

The race between Murphy and Perry sets up a stark contrast in the critical seat not just for the Republican Party in the GOP’s bigger quest to retake the House majority in 2020, but for the direction of the conservative movement and the direction of the party. Establishment forces have been trying to elect more Republicans willing to criticize President Trump and conservatives and have been pushing to recruit more voices in line with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney–now a U.S. senator from Utah after he carpet-bagged his way into the U.S. Senate–and less in line with Trump. They have not had much success in most places, however; in primaries since 2016, voters have been mostly lock-step with Trump in fighting the establishment’s efforts to subdue Trump’s agenda.

While Perry now claims to be a pro-life conservative and says that what got her to run for the House seat in the first place is when she saw New York officials celebrating passage of the state law significantly expanding late-term abortions, she was not always conservative. In fact, in 2012, she and her husband endorsed a Democrat congressman, Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), for re-election against his GOP challenger, David Rouzer. Their help of this Democrat congressman, in part, led to his re-election, and he served until the end of 2014 when Rouzer eventually came back and won his district as McIntyre retired:

While McIntyre did eventually vote against Nancy Pelosi for the speakership on the floor after Democrats were in the minority in the House, he and Pelosi grew particularly close. In fact, when McIntyre announced his retirement in 2014, Pelosi issued a glowing statement praising him. “He will be missed by friends on both sides of the aisle, and we wish him well in all his future endeavors,” Pelosi said of McIntyre.

But backing Democrat McIntyre for another final term in Congress is not all Perry did as an affront to conservatives and Republicans. In her first radio interview as a candidate this year, when she launched her campaign for the House seat, Perry sided with critics of President Trump regarding his border wall national emergency declaration to use executive authority to build the wall after the Congress failed to secure funding for him on that front.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), who was previously opposed to the president’s decision to use executive authority and declare a national emergency on the border and announced publicly his opposition in early 2019 before changing positions to back Trump, is cited by the local radio host, who asked Perry where she comes down on this issue.

“I think that’s a really tough call, and I appreciate the perspective that Thom is bringing to this,” Perry said, praising Tillis’s opposition at the time to Trump’s national emergency declaration. “I know that there is precedent for using it in the past, but not exactly under these circumstances. I think sometimes, political decisions are made quickly without the consideration of consequences and what may follow from that decision.”

When the radio host asked her whether she would vote for Trump’s national emergency declaration or against it, she confirmed she was seriously considering not supporting the president. “I don’t know. I would consider voting against it,” Perry said. “Of course, not voting against the border wall–but voting against [the president’s use of executive authority to build it] … because of the precedent it sets for the future and all of that.”

In response to a request for comment from Breitbart News, Perry’s campaign provided a statement from the candidate: “President Trump is trying to shake up Washington and accomplish conservative policy goals, and I support him for it,” Perry said. She added, “His conservative leadership has our economy roaring, and we need to keep it going. I will join him in pushing Congress to address the neglected issue of border security, which means building a wall and increasing the resources available to secure the border. Congress must do its job and fund these needed solutions. I understand why the President believed he had no other option, agree that there is an emergency on the border, and do not support the Democrats’ political game to repeal his emergency declaration. Our Founding Fathers established in our Constitution that the people’s representatives hold the power of the purse, and Congress must do its job to restore our country to its limited government foundation. For years, my husband and I have been in Bible studies with Mike McIntyre, who impeached President Clinton and was endorsed by the NRA and the National Right to Life for his 100% Pro-Life voting record. Mike McIntyre is more conservative than Rep. Greg Murphy. McIntyre voted against Obamacare and voted repeatedly to repeal it because we all know Obamacare could lead to state and federal funding for abortion. Meanwhile, Rep. Greg Murphy is leading Republicans in the legislature to implement Obamacare in North Carolina by tapping into federal Medicaid expansion dollars. He’s not a conservative and has no right to criticize my support of a pro-life, conservative, evangelical Christian.”

While Perry has serious problems with these establishment and Democrat concerns,  her opponent in the primary runoff race, Dr. Greg Murphy, has just won a big endorsement from House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). Meadows also announced that the Freedom Caucus as a whole is officially backing Murphy’s campaign.

“I stayed out of the original primary contest because I had too many conservative friends and supporters backing different candidates. But now that it’s down to a two-person race, Greg Murphy is clearly the conservative pick and has my full support and that of the House Freedom Fund as well,” Meadows, a top ally of President Trump, told the Raleigh News and Observer on Wednesday.

Murphy, in contrast to Perry’s opposition to Trump on the border emergency declaration, offered his full support for President Trump’s emergency declaration in a radio interview on Breitbart News Saturday in early March. “I like to look at things in the totality. If you look at the last five presidents, they’ve talked about the immigration crisis. They’ve just talked about it and how it’s becoming more of a problem in a kind of crescendo effect over the last several presidencies,” Murphy said when asked to respond to the news that Trump has just vetoed the bill blocking his emergency declaration that Perry was considering supporting. “Well, Donald Trump has actually come in and done what he said he’s going to do. It is an emergency.”


It remains to be seen what happens next in North Carolina, but this particular race could foreshadow larger battles between the shrinking establishment critical-of-Trump wing of the GOP’s efforts to climb back into power against the growing anti-establishment pro-Trump conservative wing. With a number of major elections next year, this could be just the beginning.


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