In a runoff election featuring two physicians, Greenville surgeon and state Rep. Greg Murphy easily defeated Kinston pediatrician Joan Perry for the Republican nomination in the 3rd U.S. Congressional District.

At 9:40 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, the State Board of Elections reported Murphy led Perry, 60%-40%. He advances to the Sept. 10 general election, where he’ll face Democratic primary winner Allen Thomas, Libertarian primary winner Tim Harris, and Constitution Party candidate Greg Holt.

Former Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican who represented the district for nearly a quarter century, died in February from complications related to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The 3rd District covers all or part of 17 counties in eastern North Carolina.

President Donald Trump was a key figure in the runoff, with each candidate claiming closer ties to the president’s agenda.

Murphy outraised Perry in direct campaign contributions — $573,000 to $374,000, according to Federal Elections Commission records. But outside groups backing Perry spent roughly $1 million, primarily targeting Murphy’s support for what Perry called Medicaid expansion.

Murphy has co-sponsored legislation the past two sessions expanding insurance coverage to residents who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Murphy denies the bills — called Carolina Cares in 2017 and N.C. Health Care for Working Families this year — qualify as Medicaid expansion even though they set eligibility using Medicaid guidelines and 90% of the costs would come from federal Medicaid funds.

The current legislation, House Bill 655, passed the House Health Committee Tuesday morning and is on the chamber’s Wednesday calendar for a floor vote.*

Each candidate got the support of heavy hitters in the GOP. U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-11th District, who heads the House Freedom Caucus, endorsed Murphy. Perry was backed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, FreedomWorks, all 13 Republican women in the U.S. House, 2nd District U.S. Rep. George Holding, and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

The Cook Political Report, Rothenburg’s Inside Elections, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate the district Safe Republican.

The winner of the general election will serve through December 2020.

*Editor’s note: CJ learned after publication that Murphy recently dropped his sponsorship of H.B. 655.