3rd District winner will quickly face re-election bid
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, August 25, 2019
The Democrat and Republican running to fill the open seat of the late congressman Walter Jones Jr. both used the phrase “hit the ground running” when describing their plans for taking office.
The winner of the Sept. 10 special election for the 3rd Congressional District will need to make his mark quickly. Whoever wins will have two months in Congress before filing for the 2020 congressional elections begins at noon on Dec. 2.
Democrat Allen Thomas and Republican Greg Murphy have identified the issues they want to address with the first legislation they sponsor.
Murphy, a Greenville urological surgeon who is serving his second full term in the North Carolina House of Representatives, said his first legislation would be the introduction of a balanced budget amendment.
“The nation’s greatest unseen, insidious and relentless enemy is our national debt,” Murphy said. “At close to $23 trillion it has spiraled out of control and threatens this nation’s security, self-reliance and commerce.”
With unemployment at record lows and the nation experiencing what Murphy called “the greatest economic boom in 50 years,” deficit spending should be decreasing, he said.
“We must limit the growth of government and government spending,” Murphy said. “It is not a tax problem this nation has. It has a spending problem. We must move toward balancing our budget.”
Thomas, former Greenville mayor and former executive director of the North Carolina Global TransPark, said his first legislation would be divided into two parts. The first would be to implement existing federal plans to mitigate future hurricane flood effects across eastern North Carolina. The second would support rural broadband infrastructure across the eastern region.
“We have an immediate need to get proactive and get in front of the effects of future hurricanes,” Thomas said. “We know they are coming.”
Thomas said that as far back as 1964, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began anticipating the effects that growth in Raleigh and the Research Triangle Park area would have on eastern water basins.
While mitigation measures were developed at that time, less than 10 percent of the plan has been implemented, Thomas said.
“The first step is to ignite movement with the Army Corp of Engineers, which manages and maintains our waterways, to get moving on implementing measures to protect eastern North Carolina from upstream flooding rolling down on our coastal plains,” he said.
Establishing broadband service in rural communities sends a message that eastern North Carolina is open for business, Thomas said.
“This sets the baseline in our future viability and plans in healthcare, education and economic growth,” he said.
Thomas envisions a rural broadband system that is similar to the current water service districts that are found across eastern North Carolina.
Public and private entities work invest in the needed wireline and wireless technology infrastructure to provide connectivity. Thomas described connecting rural communities as a stair-step process.
The two candidates also talked about the importance of quickly assembling their congressional staff.
Thomas said he would like members of Jones’ staff to join his office, if they wish. The discussions have been positive but confidential, Thomas said. However he is encouraged
“My main priority is to get to work for the people of eastern North Carolina,” Thomas said.
Murphy said along with hiring staff for opening his office at the Capitol, he wants to open offices in Greenville, Jacksonville and somewhere in the northeastern counties along the Virginia border.
Because members of the North Carolina General Assembly wanted North Carolina to have a greater role in influencing the selection of presidential candidates, they moved primary elections to March starting in 2016.
Primary elections for other federal, state and local offices are held at the same time.
The 2020 primaries will be on March 3 and filing for the offices will begin on Dec. 2.
If the new congressman draws a primary challenger in December, he will have to campaign and raise money for the March 3 primary and the Nov. 3, 2020, general election along with carrying out his congressional duties.
If there is no primary challenger, the new congressman can focus his re-election campaign on raising money for the Nov. 3 election while continuing his congressional duties.
Murphy and Thomas said balancing the challenges of serving in Congress while campaigning involve focusing on the needs of eastern North Carolina.
“When I win this special election, I will run again; however, that is not the main focus,” Thomas said. “We need to start getting to work immediately for the people in this district.
“I plan to fight for affordable and quality health care, policies that will help mitigate the damage from natural disasters that are becoming more common, infrastructure investments that will connect our rural communities and communities that are underserved, and much more,” Thomas said.
The 17-county 3rd Congressional District is varied, encompassing economies based around agriculture, tourism, the military, education and health care.
“I will be out traveling in the district and listening. I will be listening to constituent’s concerns and how best I can address them as their congressman,” Murphy said. He believes agriculture and the military are among the most important constituencies.
“Yes, I am a physician and have 30 years of experience in business and health care,” Murphy said. “While I surely will use that expertise to work on legislation, I feel the needs of the district will be best met if I am on the Armed Services Committee and the Agricultural Committee.”
Thomas and Murphy both said if they win the special election they will seek re-election in 2020.
When asked if they would run in 2020 if they lose the special election, both candidates were noncommittal.
“Let’s get one election done before we start thinking about the next,” Murphy said. “I have served people all of my life as a physician and a legislator. Regardless of the election’s outcome, I will continue to serve them.”
“I would have to have a discussion with my family, those close to me, and take time to pray to know what is right,” Thomas said. “As of right now, my focus is this special election because it is crucial that we fill this seat with someone who is ready to get the job done and get these policies implemented.”
Contact Ginger Livingston at email@example.com or 252-329-9570.