Ex-Greenville mayor wins Dem primary in North Carolina, GOP candidates head to runoff

Ex-Greenville mayor wins Dem primary in North Carolina, GOP candidates head to runoff
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The Republican primary contest for the special election in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District is heading to a runoff as two physicians will continue battling to succeed late Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic infighting threatens 2020 unity Heavy loss by female candidate in Republican NC runoff sparks shock Greg Murphy wins GOP primary runoff for North Carolina House seat MORE (R).

The field of 17 GOP candidates was slimmed down to two physicians Tuesday night as neither urologist Greg Murphy nor pediatrician Joan Perry, who claimed the top two spots, breached the 30-percent-plus-one threshold to win the Republican nomination outright. Murphy garnered 22.5 percent of the vote while Perry got 15.4 percent.

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North Carolina law mandates that Perry must formally request a runoff, which would be held on July 9, by next week. The eventual victor will face off against former Greenville, N.C., Mayor Allen Thomas, who won the Democratic primary on Tuesday.

Whichever Republican wins the nomination will likely be favored to win the general contest, as the GOP has held the seat since 1995 and President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE won the district by 24 points in 2016.

Among those who were voted out of the race are state Reps. Phil Shepard, who finished third with 12 percent, and Michael Speciale, who garnered 10 percent of the vote. Marine veteran Phil Law was fifth with 9 percent.

A runoff will likely mean that Thomas, who won 50 percent of the vote and doubled the tally of his nearest competitor, will have a head start to prepare for the Sept. 10 general election as Murphy and Perry continue to duke it out. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hailed Thomas as “a proven leader who created jobs and opportunity as mayor,” while the National Republican Congressional Committee ripped him as a candidate who moved “far to the left during his primary” and “will now have to answer for the socialist Democrats’ extreme policies.” 

Jones, who was first elected in the 1994 midterm elections, died in February after a long illness.