North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District Primary Preview
North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District (Republican Defense)
Candidates: Kevin Baiko, Paul Beaumont, Graham Boyd, Celeste Cairns, Gary Ceres, Chimer Davis Clark Jr., Don Cox, Francis De Luca, Phil Law, Jeff Moore, Greg Murphy, Michele Nix, Mike Payment, Joan Perry, Eric Rouse, Phil Shepard, Michael Speciale
Overview: Today is the first Congressional special election primary of the year, and it is incredibly crowded on the Republican side, with 17 candidates seeking election. The seat, which is located on the Northeastern coast of North Carolina, was represented by Republican Walter Jones for many years up until his death earlier this year. Jones was known for moderate tendencies and often bucked the party leadership and essentially functioned as an independent at times. This election will trigger a runoff if no candidate receives at least 30%, which seems unlikely given the number of candidates running. The favorite at this point definitely seems to be Greg Murphy, a state representative from the Greenville area. Murphy has been a fairly center right establishment conservative during his time in the State House, and as a result, has a lot of establishment support. This has allowed him to receive twice as much fundraising as any one of his rivals in the race. Murphy was in the lead with 14% in the only poll released on the race, an internal from a fellow state representative in Phil Shepard. Shepard represents the Jacksonville area in the State House, but hasn’t run a strong enough campaign to extend his base past there and was in third at just 7% in his own poll. Additionally, he has rubbed some the wrong way by beginning campaigning before Jones’s death. That being said, Shepard has enough a geographical base that he could manage to grab a runoff spot in such a split field. The 2nd place candidate in the one poll was Joan Perry, a former University regent who has been able to self-fund significantly. Perry has also received support from groups seeking to bring more women into the Republican Party such as the Susan B. Anthony List. There are also quite a few strong more hardline conservative challengers, including Phil Law, who challenged Jones from the right in 2016 and 2018 and came close to winning both times. Additionally, Lenoir County Commissioner Eric Rouse has self-funded well and accountant Celeste Cairns managed to grab the endorsement of the Club for Growth. Francis De Luca of the Cvitas organization and Pat McCrory administration official Jeff Moore have both also run more anti-establishment campaigns, but neither have really taken off outside of an endorsement for Moore from Rand Paul. State Representative Michael Speciale might be the most conservative candidate in the race, but also has been hurt by his history of gaffes and his status as exactly the type of candidate who has blown past special elections for the Republicans. NCGOP vice chair Michele Nix, businessman Chimer Clark, and farmer Graham Boyd have all run decent campaigns and could also have outside shots at a runoff, while Currituck County Commissioners Paul Beaufort and Mike Payment both will have clear geographical bases. Overall, a runoff seems very likely, although who makes it is a much more complicated question.
Prediction: Greg Murphy and Joan Perry advance to a runoff with 25% and 20%, respectively.
Candidates: Richard Bew, Gregory Humphrey, Ike Johnson, Dana Outlaw, Ernest T. Reeves, Allen Thomas
Overview: The Democratic primary is much more simple, with only 3 strong contenders in the running. Overall, the race seems more likely to come down to two candidates, former Greenville mayor Allen Thomas and veteran Richard Bew. Thomas has the best fundraising and local establishment support, as he has a strong base as a former mayor of a city with 90,000 people. However, Bew has received a lot of buzz in the past few weeks in national circles as potentially the strongest candidate for this race, and is looking to repeat the populist centrist strategy that won Conor Lamb a special election in Pennsylvania last march. New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw could also be a factor, but doesn’t seem likely to reach outside New Bern in his campaign. All things considered, the biggest question seems to be whether one of Thomas and Bew can get 30% or whether there will have to be a runoff between the two.
Prediction: Allen Thomas wins with 35% of the vote.
Wisconsin Assembly District 64 (Democratic Defense)
Candidates: Tip McGuire (D), Mark Stalker (R)
Overview: We finish up with a legislative special election in Racine, Wisconsin, one which could become just slightly competitive. The seat opened up when former Minority Leader Peter Barca resigned to join the administration of Tony Evers as secretary of the Department of Revenue. The seat swung towards the Republicans in 2016, with Hillary Clinton winning just 53–42 after Barack Obama’s 59–40 win in 2012. The Democratic candidate is prosecutor and former legislative staffer Tip McGuire, who has received a strong amount of establishment support. He will go up against school board member Mark Stalker on the GOP side, who has proved a decent challenger. That being said, McGuire is definitely favored and seems very likely to win this election barring a surprise.
Rating and Prediction: We rate this district as Likely D. I’ll say Tip McGuire wins with 55% of the vote.