Field notes from a North Carolina runoff and a reparations hearing

Political Theater Podcast, Episode 79

The GOP primary runoff in North Carolina’s 3rd District has become somewhat of a proxy war between House Freedom Caucus leaders Mark Meadows, left, and Jim Jordan, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There is always a special congressional election somewhere. For the purposes of this particular Political Theater podcast, it is the upcoming Republican primary runoff in North Carolina’s 3rd District.

This is the seat that became vacant when longtime GOP Rep. Walter B. Jones died earlier this year. The April 30 GOP primary ended with two candidates heading to a July 9 runoff: state Rep. Greg Murphy and political newcomer Joan Perry. (The winner will face Democrat Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville, in a Sept. 10 special general election to serve out the remainder of the 116th Congress.)

While both GOP candidates are doctors — he’s a urologist, she’s a pediatrician — and self-styled conservative Republicans who are utterly, totally loyal to President Donald Trump, the race has quickly become a divisive one for the national party

On one hand, many House Republican leaders and the 13 GOP women in the chamber see an opportunity to add to their female ranks in a safe GOP seat with Perry. On the other hand, the House Freedom Caucus sees a chance to add to its club with Murphy. 

In addition to this battle of the sexes and Capitol Hill proxies, CQ Roll Call senior political writer Simone Pathé, on a recent visit to the 3rd District, learned about Trump Derangement Syndrome, how health care shapes a race between two physicians and taking some time to listen to the frogs. 

A Juneteenth reparations hearing

UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: Author Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies about reparations for the descendants of slaves during a hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday June 19, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Author Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies on reparations for the descendants of slaves during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on June 19. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Once considered such a long shot that Dave Chappelle used it as grist for an iconic skit on “Chappelle’s Show,” reparations for the descendants of slaves is now a matter of public debate on Capitol Hill. 

The recent Juneteenth (June 19) hearing at the House Judiciary civil rights subcommittee featured testimony from advocates for reparations, most prominently writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose 2014 essay in The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations,” changed the dynamics on the debate.

“This is not the most comfortable position for me to be in. I consider myself a writer. I consider myself a journalist. It’s my hope to continue that work, but I felt the issue was so important I had to speak to it,” Coates said after the hearing, where he appeared with other such luminaries as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and actor Danny Glover. 

Heard on the Hill’s Clyde McGrady covered the hearing, and he takes us on an “emotional” journey through what happened that day, as well as the broader implications for the debate going forward. 

Show notes:


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