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Keeping Up with the Jones

The anti-war Republican may be getting a primary challenge.

3:52 PM, May 1, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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So could Jones lose a primary challenge? History says no. Jones went mostly unopposed until 2008, when a poorly funded pro-defense Republican held him to 59 percent in the primary. In 2010, he trounced two primary opponents with 77 percent of the vote. He faced the longtime police chief of New Bern in the 2012 primary but came away with 69 percent support. Ferrell Blount, a former state party chairman in North Carolina, is backing Jones again for 2014 and doesn’t think next year will be any better for potential challengers.

“I think Walter’s well loved in the district. He’s got a wonderful constituent services,” Blount said.

There’s also the benefit of the Jones name. His father, also named Walter B., was a conservative Democrat who served in Congress for nearly three decades. The people of eastern Carolina have been represented by a Jones for nearly 47 uninterrupted years, and it may be a hard habit to break.

Phil Knight, a local talk radio host, says he would support Dacey if he got in the race because he says Jones is “ineffective” in Washington. Knight noted, however, that many of the older citizens in the district who call in to his show say they like their current congressman. “They tell me, ‘Walter Jones is good to the veterans,’” Knight says. “But he hasn’t done much of substance.”

Dacey’s advantage over past primary challengers could be his ability to raise enough money to compete against an incumbent. Jones, meanwhile, no longer sits on the financial services committee, meaning some of his own campaign funds from banks and financial service companies could dry up. He has few friends in the House Republican leadership team, and his several hundred thousand dollars in outstanding dues to the National Republican Congressional Committee suggests he’d have a tough time getting fundraising help from his House colleagues.

Blount, however, cautions against the assumption that a better-funded candidate could knock Jones out in a primary. He cited the case of Jones’s self-funding Democratic opponent in 2000, Leigh Harvey McNairy.

“If money was going to beat Walter Jones, it would have happened then,” Blount says.

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