MOREHEAD CITY — The bulk of the state’s 3rd Congressional District’s Republican candidates made their case directly to county voters at Thursday evening’s meet-and-greet event at Southern Salt Seafood Co.
Put on by the Crystal Coast Republican Men’s Club, the event marked one of the last major meet-and-greets before the primary elections, set for Tuesday, April 30.
Members of the club were surprised to see how well-attended their event was.
“We invited all the Republican candidates (running) for (the late Rep.) Walter Jones’ seat,” said Steve Malay, a member of the club “So far, we’ve got about 14 of them here.”
In total, 17 Republicans are in the running for the nomination.
District Court Judge Bob Cherry served as moderator for the event.
The only three candidates that did not attend were Kevin Baiko, Don Cox and Celeste Cairns. Candidate Graham Boyd showed up an hour late to the event, but tried to make up for lost time.
“Faith, family, freedom, those are my priorities that drive my decisions,” Mr. Boyd said. “My commitment to you is to work hard, to be a tireless advocate.”
Each candidate received two minutes to introduce themselves and give a brief overview of their platform. After that candidates answered questions direct from those in attendance on a wide range of topics. At the end of the evening was the “lightning round” in which candidates received a minute to talk about education, the military and farming.
While the majority of the event was geared toward the District 3 candidates, 2020 declared Supreme Court candidates Paul Newby and Tamara Barringer kicked off the talk by urging voters to not allow the state’s Supreme Court to lose conservative-minded justices.
“I’m the last man standing,” Justice Newby said. “I’m the last person standing before you and a 7-0 supreme court.”
The senior member of the state’s Supreme Court, Justice Newby was the first of many speakers to criticize Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, specifically for appointing a Democrat as chief justice earlier this year.
“The 200-year tradition of our court is that the senior member (becomes) chief justice,” Justice Newby said. “I’ve been on the court now for 15 years.”
Ms. Barringer echoed Justice Newby’s sentiments.
“We cannot allow these activist judges to continue to legislate from the bench,” Ms. Barringer said.
Francis De Luca, one of the District 3 candidates, said the Supreme Court is just as, if not more, important than the congressional race.
“The Supreme Court is going to undo all of the good things the legislature has done,” Mr. De Luca said. “I encourage you to support them.”
Each of the candidates agreed their policies and ambitions coincide with each other.
“Politically, we are all very much the same,” Dr. Greg Murphy said. “I consider myself a Ronald Reagan conservative. That means lower taxes, less government and more personal liberty.”
That didn’t stop a number of candidates from trying to distinguish themselves from the pack, however.
“The third district has a lot of challenges, but I’m uniquely qualified to handle these challenges as a new generation of leadership (comes forward),” candidate Phil Law said. “These candidates are trying to do in two months what I have been doing (for) five years.”
While Mr. Law touted his past experience running for public office, others tried to endear themselves by talking about their past.
“I fought my way out of poverty,” candidate Michele Nix said. “When I graduated from high school, I thought I knew everything. Two children later at age 20, I realized I didn’t know half of what I thought I did. I needed to receive government assistance. I’ve fought my way off of government assistance because I knew I wanted something better for my family. If it were up to the likes of (U.S. Rep.) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, I would still be a victim and needing the government to rescue me.”
Like Ms. Nix and other candidates, Dr. Joan Perry emphasized her pro-life stance.
“The thing that compelled me to join this race was … watching a northern legislature cheer the passage of a reproductive health act and the Virginia governor, shortly thereafter, endorse infanticide. This compelled me as a Christian, as a mother, as a grandmother, as a pediatrician and as a citizen to do this.”
Candidate Chimer Davis Clark agreed with Dr. Perry, saying abortion rights are indeed a point of concern.
“I intend to have the legislature define when life begins so that abortion can then be defined for what it truly is,” Mr. Clark said.
Gary Ceres, another candidate, placed an emphasis on what he described as his underdog status.
“I’m in this race because I’m the working-class candidate,” Mr. Ceres said. “I’m running because we need a working-class voice. What we have now is a political class of elites that we continually reelect. They do not speak for the common person in this district, who cannot relate to someone such as myself.”
For a number of candidates, like Mr. Ceres, this election is their first run for public office.
“It’s all under a very compressed time frame,” Dr. Perry said. “We have to make appearances, talk to a lot of people and try to raise money all in a short period of time. In a large district you have to get your name out there, so, if it takes hours to drive from one end to another, it’s inconceivable you can spend a lot of time in all the areas.”
Candidate and state Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, said he is largely motivated by his desire to clean up Washington, D.C.
“I’m running because I’m angry, I’m running because you’re angry,” Rep. Speciale said. “I’m running because I have the experience, I’ve got the knowledge to do what needs to be done.”
Like most other candidates, Phil Shepard touted his experience and his support for President Donald Trump.
“President Trump is doing those things for our economy and he is also trying to do what’s right for the American people,” Mr. Shepard said. “I want to go (to Congress) to support him.”
Support for President Trump, particularly regarding illegal immigration, was an ongoing theme throughout the evening.
“I support the president,” candidate Mike Payment said. “One thing I’m tired of is I’m tired of reaching into my pocket and paying for these illegal immigrants. We have people that we need to start taking care of right now. We need someone in Washington that supports our president. I support him strongly.”
Other candidates gave their own thoughts on illegal immigration.
“I’m not running to replace Walter Jones, that’s just not going to happen,” Mr. Law said. “I’m running because illegal immigration is killing this country.”
Mr. Clark echoed these sentiments.
“I support President Trump in his goals and efforts to stop illegal immigration (and) to build a wall across our southern border,” Mr. Clark said. “Chimer Clark, tough enough to stand with Trump.”
Another theme was candidates touting their experience in business.
“I’m not doing this (for profit), I’m doing this because I feel like I need to give back,” Carteret County native and Lenior County Commissioner Eric Rouse said. “I’m a business person, kind of like Trump, I know how to read financial statements. I know how to make a budget. I know how to squeeze a budget.”
Carteret County native Jeff Moore touted his grassroots experience.
“I switched gears entirely and (worked) to elect (conservatives) up and down the ballot in 2012,” Mr. Moore said, adding that he feels a conservative needs to be elected to Rep. Jones’ former seat.
Candidate Paul Beaumont focused his attention on more local issues.
“Number one is unemployment,” Mr. Beaumont said, adding that it’s a point of concern in the district.