Gun-toting GOP candidate vows to back Trump in first ad of US House special election

Note: This story has been updated to clarify Greg Murphy’s position.

One of 17 candidates vying for the Republican nomination in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District special election will begin airing television ads in the Greenville market Tuesday.

In the ad, Eric Rouse, a Lenoir County commissioner, is seen skeet shooting — hitting clays with Democratic priorities like the Green New Deal written on them in the 30-second ad. It closes with Rouse cocking a gun and vowing to have President Donald Trump’s back if elected.

Rouse is among 26 candidates running to replace Republican Rep. Walter Jones, who died on Feb. 10. Jones, who represented the district since 1995, voted with Trump just 49.3 percent of the time, the lowest of any Republican representative, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. The primary is April 30 in the district that includes parts or all of 17 counties in Eastern North Carolina.

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But with Trump enjoying high approval numbers among Republicans — 90 percent in the latest Gallup poll — it’s not a surprise that candidate in the race are trying to tie themselves to the president. A Elon University poll released last week found that 77 percent of North Carolina Republicans planned to vote for Trump for president in 2020.

“When Trump took office, he flipped the switch. Now our economy is booming with more jobs,” Rouse says in the ad, which will air on broadcast and cable networks. “To keep it going, Trump needs allies to shoot down the socialist radical agenda.”

Other Republican candidates are embracing Trump as well. Phil Law, who ran against Jones in 2016 and 2018, said he would stand alongside Trump, even if faced with impeachment.

“We cannot allow radical Democratic officials to nullify the vote of the people through phony impeachment charges. If this is to become President Trump’s Alamo then I stand with him to the very end — win or lose,” Law said in a statement announcing his candidacy.

Republican Greg Murphy, an N.C. House member, did not mention Trump in the statement announcing his bid for Congress. But Murphy lists “supporting President Trump” among his top platform items on his campaign website.

“I will support the Trump agenda because it is the people’s agenda, especially Eastern North Carolina that voted so overwhelming in his favor,” Murphy wrote on his platform.

Here are the candidates running for the U.S. House in the 3rd Congressional District:

Republicans: Phil Law, Michele Nix, Michael Speciale, Greg Murphy, Gary Ceres, Chimer Davis Clark Jr., Graham Boyd, Celeste Cairns, Phil Shepard, Paul Beaumont, Jeff Moore, Joan Perry, Kevin Baiko, Francis X. De Luca, Eric Rouse, Don Cox, Mike Payment

Democrats: Ike Johnson, Dana E. Outlaw, Richard Bew, Ernest T. Reeves, Gregory Humphrey, Allen Thomas

Constitution: Greg Holt

Libertarian: Shannon W. Bray, Tim Harris

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Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.