Four GOP candidates challenge Murphy in 3rd Congressional District primary

By on May 16, 2022

Left to right: Greg Murphy, Tony Cowden, Eric Earhart, Brian Friend, and George J. Papastrat

Four candidates are challenging incumbent Third District Congressman Greg Murphy in the Republican primary to be held on March 17.

Aside from Murphy, of Greenville, the candidates include Tony Cowden of Harrells; Eric Earhart of Eure; Brian Friend of Wilmington; and George Papastrat of Richlands. They are running for what has been considered a safe Republican seat.

Because of the large number of candidates in the race, the Voice is providing biographical information found on the candidates’ websites or on the Ballotpedia site (Ballotpedia). The story also provides links to the candidates’ more detailed explanations of their positions from their own sites.

Greg Murphy: A physician, Dr. Murphy and his wife Wendy have three children and have lived in Greenville for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from Davidson and then graduated from the UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine. He a faculty member of the ECU School of Medicine and a former Chief of Staff of Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

In his work, Murphy has traveled to countries around the world facing challenging conditions. During his time in India, he cared for those afflicted with leprosy. He worked in Haiti after its devastating earthquake. And he organized a group of physicians and aid workers to mobilize on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Murphy successfully ran in North Carolina’s Third Congressional District special election in 2019 to replace Congressman Walter B Jones, Jr, who passed away in office. He was officially sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 15, 2019.

In order to read his positions on key issues, click on this link Issues – Dr. Greg Murphy for Congress (

Tony Cowden:  Cowden describes himself as a “principled conservative leader” and the website of his company, Capable Inc., notes that he spent 22 years in the Special Operations community, serving more than 8 years and 28 deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq and other Central Asian and Africa countries.

Cowden began training for and competing in triathlons in 1998 and 2005 in functional fitness competitions. His business offers a series of services ranging from fitness training to preparing military personnel for operational readiness.

On his webpage, Cowden connects the current state of the country to his military career, noting that just “when he thought his generation’s wars were over, a new conflict emerged. This time it is a conflict to protect the values we cherish, your children’s futures, and the very soul of our country. Make no mistake, this will be the most difficult fight Tony has ever engaged in.”

To get more information on Tony’s positions on the issues, click on this link.  TONY’S STANCES | Cowden (


Eric Earhart: The Ballotpedia bio notes that Earhart was born in Hampton Virginia and served in the U.S. Army for 10 years. On his site, Earhart said that he completed a two-year program at Emmaus Bible College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and development from Regent University in 2014.

Earhart has served as associate pastor and outreach coordinator for Carpenter’s Shop International Church and is the founding pastor of the Upper Room Assembly, which is described as the first multi-cultural congregation in Gates County history.

In 2020, he published his book “Emancipation Proclamation” in which he “shares his journey from prison to pulpit and reveals the dark past of the felony laws used in America today. It is a call for justice for those citizens who have paid their debt.”

Earhart cites an endorsement from the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party and describes himself as a “Christian – Conservative – Veteran – Family Man.” To learn more about him, visit his site Eric Earhart for Congress.


Brian Friend: Friend was born in Akron, Ohio into a blue-collar family. He moved to Kure Beach, NC in 1987 and received an undergraduate degree in accounting at UNC-Wilmington in 1997, and also earned master’s degrees in Forensic Accounting and Advanced Taxation.  He started an insurance company in 2002 and also worked in construction. As another part of his bio, Friend notes that he coached Semi-Pro football for the North Carolina Port City Thunder and Port City Diesel, (Wilmington) and the Port City Chargers (Southport).

Friend describes himself as “a revolved-republican and my views have become conservative. Born and raised in Ohio during the 60’s and 70’s, everyone was blue-collar, hard-working and considered Democrats, and as I have become, older life’s wisdom has brought me to the Republican Party.” He also describes himself as “Pro God, Pro Military, Pro Law Enforcement and Pro 2nd Amendment.”

Discussing his opponents on his website, Friend states that “the current Congressman and candidates may be good people. I am not bashing anyone, but if we walked into a dark alley, I will be the one walking out.”

To learn more about Friend’s positions, clink on this link Brian Friend For Congress 2022 – Vote For Brian Friend (

George Papastrat: Papastrat, who was born in New York State, is a Marine veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and finished his military career at Camp Lejeune. The Ballotpedia bio notes that he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in business administration from American Military University in 2012 and 2016. A husband and father, he currently owns Tideline Marine & Family in Jacksonville, NC.

On his site, Papastrat said he was deeply influenced by the message in Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, adding that “the funny thing about being a kid, is we aren’t filled with hate or contempt, we don’t see differences in religion or politics, we see the other person as someone to interact with, learn with and play. As an adult, I want that to become a reality.”

Noting that his family immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1990’s and fought in both World Wars, Papastrat states on his website that he is a “grandchild of immigrants, who have selflessly served their country in every major conflict since the Great War… I am the American dream.”

To learn more about Papastrat and his views, click on georgeforcongress (


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  • OBX Voter

    Please spare us more of Greg Murphy.

    I was dialed into his “Constituent Conference Calls” where he agreed with callers that “the Chinese voting machines changed the 2020 election”, and he soft-pedaled COVID vaccines because “they might have super-secret microchips in them”! He is right-wing fringe.

    Please, Republican voters, reject the misinformation and hate!

    Monday, May 16 @ 10:40 pm
  • John VanderMyde

    I’m registered Independent so I can pick the least crazy Republican for our district – can anyone help me out here? I’m having a tough time – with the exception of the “dark alley” guy, at least he makes it easy.

    Tuesday, May 17 @ 12:06 pm
  • Independent

    Following the links it appears Murphy’s assertions a bit disingenuous when one researches his record a sayer not a doer.

    Looks like Papastrat is sanest in the group and has a sense of how to serve the whole district not partisan interests

    Tuesday, May 17 @ 3:54 pm