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'Outside' hopefuls tout ties to 3rd District


By Jon Hawley
The Daily Advance

Monday, April 22, 2019

Five of the 26 candidates seeking to be the next representative from the 3rd Congressional District have residences outside the district that includes all or parts of 17 counties in eastern North Carolina.

Even so, all five tout their ties to the district and willingness to serve it, which under the U.S. Constitution they can do if elected, despite not living within its physical boundaries. Several also say they might move to the district if elected.

Republicans Graham Boyd, Jeff Moore and Francis De Luca, Democrat Ernest Reeves, and Libertarian Shannon Bray all listed residences outside of the 3rd District when they filed their candidacies last month. They are among 17 Republicans, six Democrats, two Libertarians and one Constitution Party candidate running in a special election to replace the late Walter B. Jones Jr., the longtime Republican congressman from Farmville who passed away in February.

Unlike North Carolina’s state offices, people may run for a seat in a congressional district even if they reside outside it. However, when someone runs to represent an area where they don’t live, it raises questions about how informed, connected, and committed they are to the district, and its many thousands of residents.

All five out-of-district candidates were recently asked to address those issues in recent interviews.

Graham Boyd

Boyd is a self-described “agricultural commodity leader” who’s the executive secretary of the Plant Food Association of North Carolina and the executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina. When he filed for the GOP primary in the 3rd District, the State Board of Elections also listed him as a resident of Wake Forest, which is northeast of Raleigh and well outside the district.

The state’s elections website also shows Boyd updated his registration on April 1 to Pinetown, in Beaufort County, putting him back in the district.

In an interview, Boyd said he was born and raised in Beaufort, and claims his family’s ties to the district go back to the 1600s. He and his wife live in Pinetown, but he also has a residence in Wake Forest due to his work for the agricultural industry, he explained.

His job requires constant travel, leading him to joke “I live in my truck, is what it feels like.”

Beyond updating his residency to Pinetown, Boyd also said he’s long traveled through and worked in the counties of the 3rd District, including with Jones’ office on agricultural issues. If he’s elected, he said frequently visiting the district will be a “high-priority commitment,” and he will also work to establish offices in convenient places for district residents. It will take further study — and looking at his office’s budget — to decide how many offices go where, he continued, but he suggested opening one northern and one southern office in the 3rd District.

Boyd said he would also look to hold office hours there periodically, giving another venue for voters to visit him.

Jeff Moore

Moore, of Raleigh, is a former staffer in the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory and an equity trader and conservative writer. Despite living in Raleigh now, he said he grew up in, and returns often to, Morehead City. His heart has never left the 3rd District, he said.

“When I go home, I’m going to come to Morehead City,” he said, citing the family he visits there.

Frequent trips to Morehead City help keep him connected to the district, he said, adding that his campaign has only intensified his travel to the district. Moore said he’s crisscrossed the district repeatedly to attend Republican conventions and other campaign events, and said he would not “slow the pace of contact” if elected. He would regularly return to and travel through the district, if elected, he said.

Francis De Luca

De Luca, a Marine veteran perhaps best known as a former president of the conservative Civitas Institute, resides in Cary, according to the state elections board website.

While commenting that “not a single voter has asked” about his out-of-district residency, De Luca said Jacksonville has always been home for him. He grew up there, and served there during his military career, he said.

De Luca also said he visited the area often as Civitas’s president, and knows the 3rd District. If elected, he said he would regularly visit the district, and might consider moving back there. He would also have offices, some fixed and some mobile, to further improve constituents’ access.

Ernest Reeves

Reeves, an Army veteran who has run for multiple offices over the years, including for U.S. Senate and U.S. House, resides just outside of the district. The 3rd District splits Pitt County and, while he resides in Greenville, his address in the 1st Congressional District.

Reeves declined an interview on his residency, and what level of service he’d offer the district.

In an email, he included statements that “by law, there’s nothing wrong with a Congressional candidate living outside of the district they hope to represent.”

Reeves also claimed that, when Jones was first elected to Congress in 1994, his Farmville home was outside the district. The district was later redrawn and included his home, he also noted.

Shannon Bray

Bray is a Libertarian from Apex, in Wake County, and was born and raised in Louisiana. He said he’s a diver and often returns to the coast and the 3rd District for work and youth diving instruction. His campaign website lists him as a Navy veteran who is now a regional director for the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets.

Though Bray said he travels to the 3rd District at least once a week, he said “just being in that area alone doesn’t qualify anyone” to serve it in Congress.

He also said he is committed to regularly visiting the district as a congressman, and would consider moving to the district, if elected.

Early voting continues for the April 30 primary election through Friday. If clear winners emerge after April 30, the general election will be July 9; if not, top finishers will square off in a second primary on July 9, and the general election will be in September.