Rep. Walter Jones Under Fire From His Own Party in NC Primary

Image: Rep. Walter Jones Under Fire From His Own Party in NC Primary

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 01:35 PM

By John Gizzi

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In one of the most unusual primaries this year, Republicans in North Carolina's Third Congressional District will choose Tuesday between longtime Rep. Walter Jones and GOP establishment favorite and first-time candidate Taylor Griffin.

In this year's primary races where challengers are taking on incumbent members of Congress in Republican primaries, the opponents are almost always bankrolled by tea party groups and other outsiders. Incumbents are relying more on funding from Washington, D.C., power centers to secure their nomination.

But the Tar Heel State's primary on Tuesday comes with a unique twist.

Incumbent Jones has embraced tea party issues — such as opposing lifting the debt ceiling, voting against re-electing John Boehner as speaker, and fighting against foreign aid — while his challenger Griffin, a former Bush administration official and consultant, has major dollars flowing from national GOP super PACs and Washington lobbyists.

Weighing in for Griffin, a co-founder of the Hamilton Place Strategies lobbying firm, are influential lobbyists Patrick Raffaniello and Wayne Berman.

Incongruously, newcomer Griffin also has an endorsement from a Republican long considered the embodiment of "outsider" politics: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

On the attack against Jones was the Ending Spending Action Fund, a super PAC started by longtime GOP major donors Joe Ricketts of Nebraska and Peter Singer of New York. The super PAC deployed $156,000 on a recent TV broadside, charging Jones was "losing his North Carolina values" after 20 years in Congress.

Jones was also hit hard by the Emergency Committee for Israel, a super PAC that "seeks to provide citizens with the facts they need to be sure that their public officials are supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship."

"He preaches American decline!" blares the Emergency Committee's anti-Jones radio salvo. "He voted no on Iran sanctions. He's supported by an anti-Israel group," referring to lobbyists J Street, which actually describes itself as "pro-Israel" which supports a "two-state solution," but which recently lost a vote to join the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations over differences with some areas of Israeli policy.

Jones, age 71 and namesake son of a longtime Democratic congressman, and his supporters steadfastly insist that he is not anti-Israel and that his votes against foreign aid are consistent with his philosophy of skepticism about international entanglement.

As publications as disparate as Mother Jones and the venerable French journal Le Figaro have noted, Jones is a key figure in the modern GOP advocacy of limited U.S. involvement abroad.

Jones was one of the earliest Republican congressional critics in Congress to speak out against the U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

"As for Afghanistan, why are we spending tax dollars on a crook like [President Hamid] Karzai and sending troops there?" Jones told this reporter in December 2012, never yielding on his position.

"Congressman Jones won't go along with the deals made in Washington or the Republican leadership there," a spokesman for the congressman told Newsmax, "and that means John Boehner, Karl Rove, and K Street."

The spokesman deemed "preposterous" charges by Griffin that Jones is a "liberal Republican." He cited the congressman's "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee.

Last week, Jones unveiled a radio ad with a strong endorsement from Dorothy Helms, 94-year-old widow of Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, one of the state's most revered conservative leaders.

As to whether that will be enough to stave off the well-heeled assaults from those within the GOP who want Jones out will be one of the defining moments of Tuesday's primaries in North Carolina.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent with Newsmax.


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