Gov. Roy Cooper issued a writ of election and proclamation Wednesday setting the special election for North Carolina’s 3rd U.S. Congressional District on July 9. The seat has been vacant since U.S. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. died earlier this month.
“People in eastern North Carolina need a voice in Congress,” said Cooper. “We’re moving ahead so they can choose their new representative quickly.”
State and federal laws require the governor to fill vacant congressional seats. The winner will serve out the remainder of Jones’ two-year term.
Candidate filing will be held between March 4 and March 8. Absentee voting for the special primary election will begin March 15, with a special primary April 30. If a primary runoff is required it would occur July 9, and the special general election would be pushed back to Sept. 10.
Absentee voting for the July 9 special election will begin May 24. If the Sept. 10 election date is needed, absentee voting will start July 26.
Before the 2018 Republican primary, Jones said he planned to run for re-election for the last time. He was elected to his 13th congressional term Nov. 6, but suffered from a rapidly advancing illness that left him debilitated and absent from Congress. U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st District, swore Jones in during a private ceremony at Jones’ Farmville home in early January.
Political observers expect a large field of candidates seeking to succeed Jones. The district includes all or parts of Beaufort, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Greene, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, and Tyrrell counties, and is considered a Republican-leaning seat.
The State Board of Elections might announce as early as today when it will meet to set election dates in the 9th U.S. Congressional District, spokesman Patrick Gannon said. The 9th District might not be on the same time schedule as the 3rd District, he said. Unlike the 3rd District, the 9th District schedule must be set by the elections board due to legislation passed by the General Assembly.
The elections board ordered a new election in the 9th District after a four-day evidentiary hearing last week to collect testimony and evidence about widespread absentee voting by mail fraud and other election irregularities.
Republican Rev. Mark Harris, who led in the race by 905 votes, called for a new election, and the elections board voted unanimously to do so. Harris announced Tuesday he was withdrawing his candidacy due to health reasons and planned surgery. Democrat Dan McCready and Libertarian Jeff Scott have said they plan to re-enter the race.
The 9th District comprises Anson, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland, Union, and parts of Mecklenburg, Bladen, and Cumberland counties.