Walter Jones Primary Challenger Looks for Rematch in 2016
Republican Taylor Griffin plans to announce a primary bid against North Carolina 3rd District Rep. Walter B. Jones on Wednesday, according to a release first obtained by CQ Roll Call.
Republicans in the state had long expected Griffin to mount a repeat challenge after he came within 6 points of knocking off the 11-term congressman in 2014. In a conservative district that Mitt Romney carried by double digits, the winner of the GOP primary will win the seat.
“Walter Jones is a good man, he’s just not a good conservative,” Griffin said in the statement.
Griffin, a GOP operative who founded Hamilton Place Strategies, moved from Washington, D.C., back to his native North Carolina for the 2014 race. Has also worked as an aide to former Tar Heel Sen. Jesse Helms and served in the George W. Bush White House and at the Treasury Department.
His 2014 campaign was boosted by nearly $1 million in outside spending that blasted Jones for being too liberal for his district.
Jones has voted with his party 74 percent of the time, compared to 92 percent for the average House Republican, according to CQ’s Vote Watch . Jones voted against John A. Boehner for speaker — a vote that’s likely to cost him fundraising help from colleagues who have passed him over and even stripped him of committee assignments in the past.
Jones prevailed by attacking Griffin as a carpetbagger last cycle, insisting that his own brand of Republicanism was what eastern North Carolina voters wanted. “I’m an independent Republican, there’s a difference. You’re a Republican, then you’re a puppet of the leadership. I got kicked off a committee. I am not a puppet, I’m not going to be a puppet,” he told CQ Roll Call in February 2014.
But two years later, the carpetbagger attack may not resonate as much as it once did. “Over the last two years I have travelled over 70,000 miles through eastern North Carolina and everywhere I go, I hear the same thing — it’s time,” Griffin said in the release. “It’s time for a principled conservative that will stand up for eastern North Carolina first.”
Griffin isn’t the only challenger in the race. Republican Phil Law, who’s already declared his candidacy , wants to take on Jones for bucking the party on national security issues. While Law isn’t seen as a competitive candidate, he could splinter the anti-Jones vote on the right.
Earlier this year, Jones put to rest retirement rumors, telling CQ Roll Call he was already fundraising for another campaign. “I like to be a thorn in people’s ass,” Walters said in February. But he raised only $70,000 in the first quarter of 2015, ending the period with about $141,000 in the bank.
Jones came to the House in the 1994 GOP wave after first running unsuccessfully for the seat as a Democrat in 1992 to replace his father, Walter B. Jones Sr., who had held the seat for 26 years.
Emily Cahn contributed to this reporting.