Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), a key ally of President Donald Trump who has served in Congress since 1995, fended off a challenge for the Republican party’s moderate wing Tuesday in the GOP primary for North Carolina’s Third Congressional District.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Jones has secured 43 percent of the vote with his two challengers, Vice-Chairman of the Craven County Board of Commissioners Scott Dacey and Phil Law, a local IT contractor and Marine veteran, splitting the remainder roughly evenly.
Jones ran a campaign aimed squarely at outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan whom he accused of running a “closed shop” that locked out conservatives. He described Dacey, who appears to have come in third, as a lobbyist with ties and donations to establishment Republicans like Ryan and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Rumors circulated on conservative blogs in the days before polls opened that Dacey secured the backing of former House Speaker John Boehner, further casting him as the GOP establishment’s pick in the conservative Third District voters’ eyes.
Jones, who ran for office as a conservative Democrat, switched parties in time to ride into Congress on the wave of 1994’s “Republican Revolution.” He is best described as a paleoconservative of the Pat Buchanan mold, becoming a major Republican opponent of the Iraq War in 2005 after having supported the initial invasion, opposing deficit spending, and consistently supporting efforts to curb illegal immigration. He also has a libertarian streak, supporting, for example, states’ rights to liberalize marijuana regulations.
Jones’s political positioning has made him a frequent target of Washington-backed primary challenges over the years.
With his victory Tuesday night, Jones secures another term in office, as the Democrats are not running a candidate against him. The win comes as part of a bad night for the GOP establishment in North Carolina, where conservative challenger Mark Harris also unseated incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger in the state’s Ninth District.