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Our view: 3rd District Congressional campaign not easy

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Chowan Herald

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The votes have been counted for the 3rd Congressional District primary, so the end is beginning to be in sight for whoever emerges on top to fill the vacancy left in the wake of Congressman Walter B. Jones Jr.'s death.

We predict that this is not going to be an easy campaign to wage for Republicans or Democrats.

Republicans still have one primary with the run-off being July 9. The contest between Greg Murphy and Joan Perry will probably be a campaign waged to determine not only who is the best conservative choice, but who is most likely support President Trump. Because both candidates are doctors, issues arising around health care and expanding Medicare may define their campaigns, as much as whether to build a border wall.

Moreover, the manner these campaigns are conducted will influence the tone of the general election.

If Republicans pursue an ugly war to determine who is the most conservative to be the party's nominee, then the GOP risks losing a bruising campaign that will be waged against a well-funded and experienced Democratic campaigner between July and Sept. 10 general election.

That said, the 3rd Congressional District trends Republican. In the 2016 presidential election, the district voted for Donald Trump (R) over Hillary Clinton (D) by more than 23 percentage points. Less than three years later, more Republicans than Democrats voted in the special primary — around 42,214 GOP to 25,813 Democrats' ballots cast. Republicans candidates raised around $1.3 million while Democrats brought in more than $414,000.

Whoever captures the GOP nod, must unite the party and hit the ground running against Democratic candidate Allen Thomas, who will have nearly a 10-week headstart campaigning and fundraising. However, Thomas is not without his own issues that Republicans will most assuredly pound into the ground. As the former executive director of Global TransPark, Thomas failed to provide oversight of its financial statements, increasing the risk of fraud, according to a recently released state audit. 

A simple Internet search of Thomas' foibles while serving as Greenville’s mayor is surely going to make the GOP candidate's life a little bit easier when campaigning too.

A big question will be if the Democratic party elite take notice of this special election and roll the dice with funds that smart money suggests may be better spent in districts more likely to trend Democrat than pouring money down a hole for a district that favors Republicans in most state and national elections.

Moreover, as the presidential campaign takes off, Thomas will be caught in the cross fire of a war waged between the progressives and moderate wings of the Democratic Party. If Thomas steps too far away from the left, he risks losing critical financial resources and support needed to pursue his ambitions. Embracing the left may be fashionable in a college town like Greenville, but that may cause Thomas to alienate conservative and moderate Democrats.  

The same can be said of the GOP candidate in the general election. If that person pursues policies that political consultants and the entrenched DC types support, that candidate may run afoul of what the voters really think is important. Campaigning to the left of Trump comes with some risk too. And let’s face it, not everyone embraces Trump’s policies or rhetoric.   

To some degree, Jones was able to straddle this divide not only within the GOP, but reach out to Democrats.

However, though eastern North Carolina trends purple, times are changing so that it has become harder to compromise with an opposition that may not share the same values, watch the same news outlets or accept the same facts.

Because of the nature of this congressional race, nothing is going to be definitively decided in September of 2019 because the campaign will most likely continue to roll along as the sequel in 2020.

Whoever wins the general election is going have to be independent enough not only to say “no” to the powers-that-be, but be able to gather the courage and strength to put the district's needs first, regardless of party affiliation, before politics and the heated rhetoric slowly destroy our Republic.

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