North Carolina state Rep. Greg Murphy on Tuesday won the Republican nomination for the seat of the late congressman Walter B. Jones, dashing the hopes of GOP women who had supported Murphy’s opponent, pediatrician Joan Perry.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Murphy had won 60 percent to Perry’s 40 percent in the primary runoff. Murphy will face former Greenville mayor Allen Thomas (D) as well as Libertarian and Constitution Party candidates in the Sept. 10 special election.
The 3rd Congressional District, which stretches across the eastern part of North Carolina, is a reliably Republican one; President Trump won it by 23 percentage points in 2016.
The race had been viewed by some as a test of women’s standing within the Republican Party. Perry had won the endorsements of all 13 House Republican women and received nearly $1 million in support from an outside group created to boost female Republican House candidates.
But in the end, she was outflanked by Murphy, who was backed by several House Republican heavyweights, including Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Mark Meadows (N.C.).
National Republicans welcomed Murphy’s win, with National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (Minn.) hailing the candidate’s “real-world experience.”
Democrats, meanwhile, needled Republicans over Perry’s loss and the party’s dearth of female lawmakers. In a statement, Melissa Miller, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the election result was “yet another predictable and staggering blow to Washington Republicans’ attempts to add vital female voices to their caucus.”
Tuesday’s runoff was triggered in April, when Murphy placed first among the 17 candidates in the Republican primary but did not garner the 30 percent necessary to avoid a runoff against Perry, who took second place.
Trump did not make an endorsement in the race, although his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, recorded robocalls for Murphy, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.
Murphy had the backing of the House Freedom Action Fund, a PAC affiliated with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which is led by Meadows.
Perry, meanwhile, received significant support from the Winning for Women Action Fund, a GOP super PAC that was created after the 2018 midterms to help elect more Republican women. She was also endorsed by former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R) and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
House Republicans saw the ranks of women in their conference reduced to 13 from 23 following the Democratic sweep in last year’s midterm elections, with only one woman, Rep. Carol Miller (W.Va.), among those elected to the GOP’s freshman class.
Some Republican women have sounded the alarm, saying their party needs to be more responsive to the concerns of female voters and should make the recruitment of female candidates a top priority.
“Women are a majority of voters in our country, and the GOP must do more to ensure our conference represents their views,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who has spearheaded efforts to elect more Republican women, said after last year’s midterms.
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, the two candidates tangled over their support for Trump’s agenda. Murphy’s supporters criticized Perry for voicing concern about Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, while Perry’s backers said Murphy had made critical comments about Trump’s presidential candidacy, according to the News & Observer. Murphy has disputed that claim.
Jones (R) died in February after his health declined following a fall in which he broke his hip. The iconoclastic, 13-term lawmaker is perhaps best known for his dramatic change of heart on the Iraq War; he enthusiastically supported the 2003 invasion but later became one of the Republican Party’s fiercest antiwar voices, writing letters to the relatives of every U.S. service member killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Joe Anne Jones, the congressman’s widow, recently pushed back on claims by Murphy that Jones had planned to endorse him in 2020.
“I’ll always be grateful to him for saving his life,” she said of Murphy, who was her husband’s surgeon, the News & Observer reported. “But that doesn’t have anything to do with Congress. This is a whole different show.”
Paul Kane contributed to this report.