Republican state Rep. Greg Murphy, who topped a 17-way primary Tuesday night for U.S. House in Eastern North Carolina, picked up a key endorsement Wednesday morning ahead of a July 9 primary runoff against Joan Perry.
Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, said he was backing Murphy in the runoff, calling the Greenville urologist “clearly the conservative pick.”
Murphy, 56, received 22.5 percent of the vote in unofficial results from the sprawling 3rd Congressional District, which covers all or parts of 17 counties in Eastern North Carolina. He needed at least 30 percent to avoid a runoff with Perry, a Kinston pediatrician and first-time candidate for elected office who finished second with 15.4 percent of the vote in the special election to replace the late Rep. Walter Jones.
Meadows represents far western North Carolina.
“I stayed out of the original primary contest because I had too many conservative friends and supporters backing different candidates. But now that it’s down to a two-person race, Greg Murphy is clearly the conservative pick and has my full support and that of the House Freedom Fund as well,” Meadows said in a text message Wednesday morning.
The House Freedom Fund is a political action committee that donates to conservative candidates, including Meadows and Rep. Ted Budd, a Davie County Republican.
Perry, who served on the UNC Board of Governors, said she considers herself “a strong conservative” in a WTIB radio interview in March when she launched her campaign.
She is staunchly anti-abortion, saying she decided to run after New York lawmakers passed a bill that critics say will allow more late-term abortions. Perry, a 61-year-old mother of five and grandmother, was endorsed and supported by the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List during the primary.
“Perry has made her pro-life convictions central to her campaign. Her voice is needed now more than ever as Democrats double down on their extreme agenda of abortion on demand and even infanticide,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a statement Tuesday night.
But Perry endorsed Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre in his 2012 congressional race against Republican David Rouzer. Perry and husband Jimbo appeared in an ad in September of 2012 backing McIntyre, one of the most conservative House Democrats, who defeated Rouzer by 654 votes.
In that same March radio interview, Perry said she had reluctance about supporting Trump’s national emergency declaration on the border wall, echoing the position Republican Sen. Thom Tillis had at the time that it could set a dangerous precedent. Thirteen Republican House members and 12 Republican senators voted against the national emergency declaration. Tillis voted with the president.
“I am very much a proponent for border security,” Perry told The News & Observer in a telephone interview last week. “I think that includes a physical barrier like a wall, revved-up technology and more manpower.”
She said she would prefer the funds for a border wall come from somewhere other than military preparation.
“I consider this an emergency. The border crisis needs to be addressed. I approach it like a pediatric trauma victim that’s bleeding. The bleeding needs to first be arrested. We need to take care of that problem first, but there are other parts of immigration that really need reform,” Perry said.
If elected in the district, which is considered a safe Republican seat, Perry would join the 13 Republican women in the House.
Former Greenville mayor Allen Thomas won the Democratic nomination and Libertarian Tim Harris won his party’s nomination Tuesday. Thomas, Harris, Constitution Party candidate Greg Holt and the winner of Murphy and Perry will be on the general election ballot on Sept. 10.