Rep. Walter Jones (R)
Elected: 1994, 8th term.
Born: Feb. 10, 1943, Farmville .
Education: NC St. U., 1962-65, Atlantic Christian Col., B.A. 1967.
Family: Married (Joe Anne); 1 child.
Military career: NC Natl. Guard, 1967-71.
Elected office: NC House of Reps., 1982–92.
Professional Career: Mgr., Walter B. Jones Office Supply Co., 1967–73; Salesman, Dunn Assoc., 1973–82; Pres., Benefit Reserves Inc., 1989–94; Pres., Judson Co., 1990–94.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Walter Jones, a Republican first elected in 1994. He grew up in eastern North Carolina, attended North Carolina State and Atlantic Christian College, and served in the National Guard. His father, Walter Jones Sr., was a Democratic representative from the old 1st District. The senior Jones served for a quarter-century and chaired the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee. The younger Jones was elected in 1982 to the state House, where he voted to oust the Democratic speaker and often broke with Democratic leaders. In 1992, he ran as a Democrat in the new black-majority 1st District after his father decided to retire. He led the primary with 38% but lost the runoff to Democrat Eva Clayton, an African-American who got 55% to Jones’ 45%. In April 1993, Jones switched to the Republican Party and soon announced he was running in the 3rd District. This pitted him against four-term Rep. Martin Lancaster, a Democrat who had worked hard on local projects. But Lancaster voted for the Clinton budget and tax bills plus his crime legislation, and failed to persuade the Clintons to drop the cigarette tax from their health care legislation. Jones ran an ad showing Lancaster jogging with Clinton. It said, “How’d Martin Lancaster get so out of touch? Well, look who he’s running around with in Washington.” Jones won 53%-47%.
|Walter Jones (R)||201,686||(66%)||($915,298)|
|Craig Weber (D)||104,364||(34%)||($21,761)|
|Walter Jones (R)||23,699||(59%)|
|Joe McLaughlin (R)||16,491||(41%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (69%), 2004 (71%), 2002 (91%), 2000 (61%), 1998 (62%), 1996 (63%), 1994 (53%)
In the House, Jones got a seat on the Armed Services Committee and also on the Resources Committee, which had absorbed his father’s Merchant Marine panel. His voting record began consistently conservative and hawkish, but over the years moderated as he took issue with President Bush’s policies, especially on national security. Jones has favored more defense spending. He had a remarkable conversion on the issue of the war in Iraq. Jones voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq in 2002, as did all but six House Republicans. He even led the 2003 effort, widely spoofed by late-night comics, to rename the House cafeteria’s french fries as “freedom fries” after France declined to support the invasion. But not long afterward, he was profoundly affected by a local marine’s funeral, setting the stage for an unlikely conversion from conservative war supporter to Bush administration antagonist.
In 2005, he joined with some of the most liberal members of the House to co-sponsor a resolution calling for the Bush administration to publish a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. Then Jones began writing letters to the families of every soldier killed in Iraq. He told Mother Jones, the liberal opinion magazine whose cover he graced in January 2006, that he had written more than 2,000 by that time, penning them every Saturday while sitting alone in his Greenville office. He called the letters his “mea culpa to my Lord” for voting for the war. In February 2007, he was one of 17 House Republicans to vote for the Democrats’ resolution disapproving of Bush’s plan for a “surge” of troops in Iraq to try to bring order to the country, torn by civil and sectarian strife. He voted for a war-funding bill that set an August 2008 deadline for withdrawal from Iraq, but Jones drew the line at a Democratic proposal to attach conditions to future war funding, saying that attempts to “starve” the war to bring it to a close were wrong.
Jones was one of only two House Republicans to vote against expanding the scope of the Bush administration’s secret surveillance program, and he also supported the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. With Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., Jones explored changes in the War Powers Resolution to strengthen the role of Congress, insisting that problems with the law went beyond Iraq. In January 2007, he sponsored a resolution seeking to ensure that the president get specific authorization from Congress before initiating the use of military force against Iran. His independence from the president and his party cost him the top Republican post on the Readiness Subcommittee on Armed Services in 2007. After his punishment at the hands of GOP leaders, Democrats approached Jones about switching parties, but he declined, saying his opposition to abortion rights would make him ill at ease in the party.
Jones has attracted attention at home as well. In North Carolina, he has generated controversy by intervening in conflicts outside his district. He called for the state school superintendent to remove from an elementary school in Wilmington a book about two gay princes who get married; he opposed full recognition to the Lumbee Indians for fear that they would build a big casino on Interstate 95; and he called for a federal review of the Durham County district attorney’s prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players on sexual assault charges. Jones, who posted the Ten Commandments in his Capitol Hill office, supported politically active churches with his proposal to permit them to endorse candidates without losing their tax-exempt status. The bill generated lots of traffic on the Internet, but the House defeated it 178-239 in 2002.
With other Republicans during the immigration debate, he pushed for 700 miles of double-layered fencing along the border with Mexico. He opposed normalizing trade relations with China, which, he said, “steals technology and sells it to our enemies, steals our nuclear secrets, and tries to influence our election process.” And he joined Democrats in opposing the Central America Free Trade Agreement. On Resources, Jones fought oil drilling on the North Carolina coast and a Bush administration proposal to shift to local governments a greater share of the cost for beach restoration.
His outspoken criticism of Iraq war policy brought him a serious primary challenge in 2008 from Onslow County Commissioner Joe McLaughlin, a financial planner and former Army Ranger officer. McLaughlin called Jones “a poster boy for the Left” and said he was “standing shoulder to shoulder with Nancy Pelosi.” But Jones seemed to benefit from Iraq fatigue among the public, even among military families. McLaughlin was significantly outspent, and the deep-pocketed Club for Growth, a national anti-tax group, declined to invest in his race. Jones won 59%-41%, with McLaughlin carrying only Carteret, Pimlico, and Craven counties. In November, he defeated poorly funded television meteorologist Craig Weber 66%-34% in a rematch from 2006. Jones was the only House Republican to endorse Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.