North Carolina Republican Runoff: How To Watch Tonight’s Returns

  • A doctor will be the nominee; only question is which one
  • Outside groups spent more than $1.2 million in the runoff

Republican voters in eastern North Carolina are casting ballots in a runoff election today that probably will determine who will fill a vacant House seat this fall.

Greg Murphy, a state representative and urologist, and Joan Perry, a pediatrician and first-time candidate, sought the GOP nomination in a 17-county district that hugs most of North Carolina’s Atlantic Coast.

Six counties together cast more than 80% of the vote in the first-round April primary, in which Murphy won 23% and Perry took 15% to top a field of 17 candidates. That means more than 60% of that electorate preferred other candidates.

(Campaign photo)
Republican candidate Joan Perry

This includes most of the Republican voters in Onslow County, which takes in Jacksonville and the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps installation at the southern end of the district. Onslow cast more votes than any other county in the first primary, though both Murphy and Perry were in the single digits there. Onslow is the home base of state Rep. Phil Shepard, who came in third place and subsequently endorsed Perry.

After Onslow, the next-biggest source of Republican votes was Carteret County, another coastal county abutting Onslow. Murphy led Perry 20%-12% there, though more than two-thirds of the ballots went to other candidates.

Murphy and Perry were about evenly matched in Craven County, which takes in New Bern and abuts both Murphy’s home county of Pitt, which includes Greenville, and Perry’s home county of Lenoir, where Kinston is located.

Pitt, which cast about as many votes as Craven, gave 68% to Murphy, who will be looking to run up another huge total there in today’s runoff.

Murphy campaign photo
Greg Murphy

The other major sources of Republican votes are Beaufort County, which borders Pitt and favored Murphy, and Lenoir, where Perry won 53% in the first-round primary.

North Carolina’s 3rd District also takes in Dare and Currituck Counties, which envelop the Outer Banks. None of the other nine counties in the district cast more than 1,000 votes in the first primary, in which 42,330 voters participated.


Polling stations close at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. In a district where President Donald Trump won 60% of the vote in the 2016 election, either Murphy or Perry will be favored in the Sept. 10 special election over Democrat Allen Thomas, a former mayor of Greenville.

The House Freedom Caucus and the political action committees of medical organizations backed Murphy. Republican women in Congress, overwhelmingly outnumbered by Democratic women after the 2018 election, aided Perry.

Outside groups spent more than $1.2 million in the runoff, most of it favoring Perry. Winning For Women Action Fund, a pro-Perry super-political action committee, was the top-spending group in the contest and received $500,000 apiece from billionaires Paul Singer and Warren Stephens.

The district was vacated by the February death of Walter Jones (R), who represented the area for almost 25 years.

For more on the North Carolina election:
Women Vs. Men as Congressional Republicans Take Sides in Primary
House GOP Faction Attacks Female Candidate, Straining Party Ties
Republican Doctors Advance to Runoff in North Carolina Race
GOP Groups Pour $600,000 Into N.C. Race to Help Women Candidates

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at; Katherine Rizzo at