Thursday, May 01, 2008

Republican of the Week: Congressman Walter Jones

Our weekly feature to find and celebrate meritorious GOP members continues.

A contest in northeastern North Carolina this Tuesday for a House seat offers a test of the willingness of core Republican voters to embrace a pro-war message -- the same one Sen. John McCain is pushing at the top of the ticket.

Republican Rep. Walter Jones is facing a tough primary challenge as a result of his antiwar positions. Republican Party leaders are backing away: they have turned against Rep. Jones in his conservative eastern North Carolina district.

When President Bush was gearing up to invade Iraq five years ago, Rep. Walter Jones backed him. As France resisted, the North Carolina Republican led the charge for "Freedom Fries" in the House cafeteria to eradicate any mention of the reluctant European ally from the congressional menu.

Then Jones himself turned against the war. As a result, he is in danger of losing his place in the House in a primary battle Tuesday.

No public polls have been conducted in the district, and Jones's power of incumbency should give him an edge. But many party activists have abandoned Jones and embraced McLaughlin, who has won straw poll after straw poll at Republican county conventions around the district, including at a districtwide meeting last weekend that Jones declined to
attend.

Jones holds few campaign events, instead concentrating money on television and radio. His campaign Web site lists political consultant Karen Rotterman as a media contact, but she declined to speak on the record. Jones declined requests for an interview.

The tense primary in North Carolina's Third District is the latest in a series of intraparty upheavals triggered by the war. Jones's fellow antiwar Republican, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, was defeated in a primary in Maryland in February.

Swept into office in 1994 with Newt Gingrich's Contract With America, Jones is a social conservative and was a big champion of toppling Saddam Hussein. When he found out the fast-food chain "Cubbie's" in Beaufort, N.C., had scrapped french fries in lieu of Freedom Fries, Jones helped bring them to the Capitol in a statement condemning French opposition to the war.

Then Jones made an abrupt turn. In congressional hearings, he has said he felt betrayed by the administration for faulty intelligence justifying the invasion. He often speaks of personal encounters with the Marines and families stationed at Camp Lejeune in his district. Last year, he described a trip to an elementary school on the base where he took questions from children. Jones recounts,
This one kid, he was just wanting to make a statement, and the statement was, 'My daddy is not dead yet'.
By 2005, Jones was on a media blitz with liberal Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, touting their legislation for a withdrawal from Iraq within 16 months.

Former Ranger, Joe McLaughlin, challenges Jones in North Carolina's Third District. Activists from outside the district have signed on with the McLaughlin campaign as well. Grover Norquist, a prominent antitax conservative, traveled to endorse McLaughlin in a three-city tour. Norquist spoke out against Jones because he says the congressman broke his pledge to not raise taxes by supporting the Democrats' energy and agriculture bills.

This is the other race to watch in the North Carolina next Tuesday.

Borrowed liberally from the Wall Street Journal

11 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

OHMYGOD: Such are the slim pickings for decency on the Republican side that it turns out that Walter Jones is a multiple of this end-of-the-week honors. I have featured him here, here, here, and here! All I can say is that I hope this won't be my last opportunity to bestow honors on Mr. Jones!

5/01/2008 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

Perhaps it's best to let the struggle end. I feel so sorry for you trying to be fair and balanced. It's hard to be even-handed when you have such a tiny handful of republicans from which to choose.

Maybe you could start focusing on bad democrats. Is lieberman still a democrat?

5/02/2008 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Jones is history, given his district he had better hope all the good-old boys don't run him out of it after the primary. One the other hand after making a principled stand he might just figure it best to leave on his own.

5/02/2008 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Cold War Vet said...

Hey Vig,

Republicans are great if you're a have or a have more.

5/02/2008 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Demographics of have-less's are trending upwards.

La. Democrat Wins In GOP Stronghold

A Louisiana Democrat captured a House seat held by Republicans for the previous 33 years, defeating a former GOP state legislator yesterday in a special election that Republicans tried to turn into a referendum on Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

With all precincts reporting, State Rep. Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. had 49 percent of the vote to Woody Jenkins's 46 percent, overcoming a barrage of ads from GOP committees that tried to paint Cazayoux as an ally of Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

5/04/2008 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger Messenger said...

Y.D., Things are also trending well for the Audacity of Hope.

5/04/2008 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Cold War Vet, since Randi Rhodes' site imploded, where have you been hanging out? I want to tag your comments but I can't find you!

5/04/2008 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Thanks for your prediction, Beach. You've softened the blow.

5/04/2008 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Messenger said...

Cold War Vet, email me will you? I have an idea...

5/04/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

I agree CWV! Utah, Lieberman is an Independent. He used to be a Democrat but lost his state's primary because of his support for Bush's insane war.

5/04/2008 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Good News!

In a sign that an anti-Iraq War position could now even be safe for Republicans, pro-withdrawal Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) was renominated last night over pro-war county commissioner Joe McLaughlin. With all counties reporting, Jones led by a margin of 59.5%-40.5%.

Of the three major anti-war Republicans in the House, only Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) was defeated in his primary, while Jones and Ron Paul were able to win renomination to their seats.

And in yet another indication of a lack of enthusiasm among the GOP base, only about 38,000 total votes were cast in this safe GOP district, despite a contested gubernatorial primary that could have theoretically boosted turnout.


TPM

5/07/2008 07:48:00 AM  

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