Down East, a battle is raging, but to live in the Triangle or on #NCPOL, you’d hardly know it. The Republican run-off primary in the race to succeed the late Congressman Walter Jones has attracted interest groups and their money in the sprawling district that makes up most of Northeastern North Carolina. Dr. Joan Perry faces state Representative Greg Murphy who is also a doctor. The winner will face Democrat Allen Thomas in September.

As is typical of GOP primaries, both candidates claim the conservative mantel and both claim to be the true Trumpian in the race. Not surprisingly, both candidates call the other a fraud. One group supporting Murphy accused Perry of being a “lying Nancy Pelosi liberal,” possibly the worst insult imaginable in a GOP primary. 

As the New York Times noted this morning, the race is a test for Republican women. A group called Winning for Women that fashions itself as a kind of EMILY’s List for Republican women have spent $900,000 on the race in a clear attempt to make themselves a force in the Republican Party. Perry has also garnered the support of high-profile Republican women like Representative Liz Cheney, Dick’s daughter, and Sarah Palin. 

In reading the New York Times article, it’s clear that the women aren’t transforming the message of the GOP. They’re running on issues that define the party under Trump, leaving the traditional conservative values of Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, Jr. The women face stereotypes that cast them as more liberal or moderate than their male counterparts. To combat that perception, Perry wants to build a wall and end abortion. 

Still, more Republican women in Congress will likely shift the party because of their life experiences. They’ve faced discrimination in male-dominated professions and have seen first-hand the sexism inherent in them. The NYT article says Perry described sexual harassment in medical schools that had few women. 

Murphy, for his part, is all in with Rep. Mark Meadows and the Freedom Caucus, a group that abandoned conservative values to become Trump’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill. They probably epitomize the white male ethos that defines the modern GOP as well as any group. Their misperceptions and biases can best be seen in a statement by a 68 year-old man in the district who said he would consider voting for Perry but qualified with the statement, “The only thing is that women, as you well know, sometimes get to be kind of emotional. I’d have to think about that.”

The GOP war of the sexes is taking place on our eastern front and the battle ends today. By the end of the evening, we’ll find out if Republicans are ready to move more into the 21stcentury or if they’ll continue to hold onto the past a little bit longer. 

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