Anti-War Republican Beats Back Bush Era Challenger

Congressman Walter Jones beat back a primary challenge from a former Bush aide who attacked him over his foreign policy views.

Elephants Fighting

North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones has long been something of an anomaly in his party. Representing a district that covers much of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and the surrounding area, Jones has been among the most strident anti-war members of Congress in either party, taking positions that went against his party on many votes regarding prosecution of the Iraq War, which he initially supported but then came to be vocal critic,  and the War on Terror. On these and other issues, he often found himself aligned with libertarian-oriented Members of Congress such as Ron Paul and Michael McClintock out of California. Not surprisingly, his outspokenness on these issues has drawn the ire of many critics inside the party, although he has consistently been reelected with wide support. This year, though, party insiders thought they had found a candidate in the form of a former Bush Administration official. As it turned out, though, Jones beat back the challenge, although the race was closer than most of his previous elections:

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) has bested his primary challenger, beating back an onslaught of attacks from establishment Republicans

The Associated Press has called the race for the iconoclastic Jones, who was leading Bush administration official Taylor Griffin (R) by 53 percent to 44 percent with 71 percent of precincts reporting. The win all but guarantees him an 11th term in the House in the heavily Republican district.

The race was Jones’s hardest fought since he first won the seat, and his win comes in spite of heavy spending from two national GOP groups. The fiscally conservative Ending Spending super-PAC and the neoconservative Emergency Committee for Israel dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the district.

Griffin benefited from a number of endorsements (and behind-the-scenes help) from former Bush administration officials including former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, as well as a late endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who he worked for while on the McCain-Palin presidential campaign.

Jones has long been a thorn in the side of GOP leadership.

After initially supporting the war in Iraq, Jones became a leading Republican critic of President Bush of the war, allying with then-fellow Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to eviscerate Bush on a number of occasions.

He’s also increasingly split with party leaders on fiscal issues, voting for Democrats’ Wall Street reform bill and against Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budgets because he doesn’t think they cut enough foreign aid. He also refused to endorse both McCain and Mitt Romney for president, backing Paul both times.

Republican leaders stripped Jones and four other uncompromising House Republicans of their committee assignments in late 2012. A month later, he was one of nine to vote against keeping House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as head of the conference. .

Jonathan Coppage sees some good news:

[A]s Jim Antle detailed in this year’s January/February issue of the print magazine, Jones was one of the very first Republicans to turn against the war when he lost faith in the pretext he had been given. Since then, he may have been the most fiercely outspoken opponent of the Iraq war on either side of the aisle. This may help explain why Emergency Committee for Israel and Ending Spending, two large establishment GOP organizations, dropped a combined $1,000,000 into the race, half supporting his challenger, half hitting Jones. Despite their efforts, however, Jones was able to convince his constituents to let him keep working for them

As is Daniel Larison:

Jones’ win is obviously good news for antiwar Republicans and conservatives. There are very few members of Congress that consistently support a foreign policy of prudence and restraint, and Jones has been on the right side of these debates for close to a decade. More than that, it is an encouraging sign that someone with a solid conservative voting record won’t be chucked out by Republican voters just because hard-liners begin flinging brain-dead accusations at him that he is a “liberal” or “anti-Israel.”

That, I think, is the real good news in Jones’s victory. It may well be that many of his constituents don’t agree with his positions on foreign policy issues, but even a highly negative campaign aimed at tossing him out of office specifically because of those views wasn’t enough to get the Republicans of North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District to fire him. Jones isn’t perfect by any means, but as Larison says he has a solid record on foreign policy issues and we could use all the voices like that in Congress that we can get, because there aren’t that many of them,

Given how close the outcome was, one suspects that party insiders might make another try for Jones in 2016, assuming he decided to run for re-election then. But that’s a problem for two years from now. For now, the Bush wing of the GOP has suffered a defeat and that’s a good thing.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    This is good news I think. Back in the early 70s the Scoop Jackson war mongering neocons moved from the Democratic party to the Republican when the Democratic base became very anti war.

  2. Eric Florack says:

    I note with some interest that Jones is aligned with the Tea Party folks on Foreign Policy, yet you fail to mention this. Yet, I recall you being quick to notice when TP folks lose such races.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    I note with some interest that Jones is aligned with the Tea Party folks on Foreign Policy, yet you fail to mention this. Yet, I recall you being quick to notice when TP folks lose such races.

    I believe that the Tea Party Foreign Policy is “… Benghazi!”