Elections expert offers analysis of Congressional race

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By Lori Worley

THIRD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT – We are officially on the homestretch – with Election Day (September 10) on the horizon next Tuesday! Constituents in North Carolina’s Third Congressional District will choose our representative until this maddening cycle starts all over again in just 6 months. Voters have 4 choices as they take to the polls over the next week: Tim Harris (Libertarian), Greg Holt (Constitution), Dr. Greg Murphy (Republican), and Allen Thomas (Democrat). Early Voting is well underway (12 days in the books at the time I’m writing this), and we are seeing some interesting dynamics – in both voter turnout and financial reporting.


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Briefing by the Numbers

Through 12 days of Early Voting, nearly 23,000 voters have cast their votes at One Stop locations; another 890 votes have been returned by mail-in absentee ballots – already 2,000 more votes compared to all of Early Voting in the April Primary. Pitt County leads total turnout with just under 4,400 votes cast (18.4%); Craven County trails with just 156 fewer votes (17.7%). Carteret, Onslow, Beaufort, and Lenoir follow, but not to discount Pasquotank, Dare, and Pamlico counties, which all have almost 1,000 votes already reported. Recall in the Republican Runoff that Dare and Pamlico counties delivered the spoiler alert – even though under evacuation orders for Dorian, this could be the case again on September 10!

 

In 2019, Murphy and Thomas have raised nearly $1.5 million, collectively; Murphy’s receipts ($964K) tower 2:1 against Thomas ($490K); Holt and Harris have not reported any receipts, indicating they are receiving/spending below the $5,000 threshold required for reporting by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).   However, money only buys a candidate more exposure over this vast land mass of the Third District, but elections are actually decided by votes cast at the ballot box. If individual contributions are any indication of voter support, then Greg Murphy is sporting a strong advantage in Early Voting. Murphy has raised $77K more than Allen Thomas inside the district (excluding Greenville); within the Greenville/Pitt County footprint, Murphy has raised over $200K more than Thomas (Greenville is split between Districts 1 and 3, so difficult to tell what portion of these donors are also constituents). Excluding personal contributions by the candidates, Thomas reports only $40K out of Pitt County, compared to Murphy’s $270K.

Painting it Purple

In the General Election, you really do get to put party lines aside – choosing your choice candidate from the list of four parties. However, we can still look into the demographics of the voter turnout so far and make some predictions. Registered Republican voters have outnumbered registered Democrats by 697 votes so far in Early Voting, but the real wild card will be in Unafilliated/Independent voter turnout. This group of voters has delivered 28% of total voter turnout so far (over 6,600 votes!) – if we split these votes equally across all 4 candidates, there would be no majority winner; however, if split evenly across the predicted frontrunners (Murphy and Thomas), the Republican candidate would pull out a majority win in the race. In fact, based on Early Voting turnout, the Republican candidate would only need 45% of the UNA/Independent vote to pull out a majority win.

 

District 3, which painted it red in the 2016 elections, will appear purple for this Special Election. Don’t be fooled by the registered party lines of the candidates. Yes, that’s what I said.

 

Of the candidates, Greg Murphy best fits the historically popular profile in this district: right-leaning moderates. Things that are not (historically) popular in this district include: cuts to military resources, with Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune being major economic machines for our communities; restricting access to healthcare in ways that make it difficult for both businesses and patients to compete; and not boldly aligning with farmers and fishermen.

 

There will be a noticeable amount of cross-over voters in this Special Election, as both registered Republicans and Democrats take to social media to pledge their allegiance to the candidate that doesn’t align with their own voter registration. Right-leaning Democrats, who have historically had a strong foothold in this district (look at the legacy of Walter Jones, Sr. and Jr.) are finding alignment with Dr. Murphy; left-leaning Republicans, notably women voters, are favoring Thomas. In Early Voting, women voters make up 52% of total turnout, accounting for over 1,000 more votes than male voters.

 

Here’s what to watch for leading up/on September 10:

  • The candidate that successfully rallies the Onslow County supporters of Phil Sheppard and Phil Law will have a great advantage; this same effect will hold true in Lenoir County for supporters of Joan Perry and in Craven County for Dana Outlaw fans.
  • Unafilliated/Independent voters will determine this race. In the top 3 turnout counties so far, they comprise over 25% of the votes; in Carteret County, they even outnumber registered Democrat turnout.

 

Lori Ann Worley is a native of Craven County and resides in New Bern with her son, Patrick. She grew up in a family-owned business and has spent the past 20 years of her professional career with a locally-based Fortune 500 company. For ten years, she has actively supported and advised in local campaigns for candidates on both sides of the aisle; her focus area is Craven County, with expanded focus specific to the Third District since 2015.