Republican Rep. Walter Jones, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives known for his opposition to the Iraq war and U.S. foreign aid, defeated challenger Taylor Griffin, a former Bush White House aide, in the District 3 Republican primary.
The unofficial results were 50.91 percent for Jones and 45.27 percent for Griffin, with nearly 91 percent of precincts reporting. A third candidate, Albin “Big Al” Novinec, got 3.81 percent.
Jones will face Democrat Marshall Adame of Jacksonville in November election.
During the campaign, Griffin worked full time seeking votes, while Jones continued to work in Congress and wasn’t seen much on the campaign trail. Novinec self-financed his campaign.
Griffin characterized Jones as insufficiently conservative. Jones has been known for voting at times against the wishes of the House Republican leadership. Still, like Griffin, Jones is a conservative who opposes government spending, abortion, same-sex marriage, the health care law and citizenship for illegal aliens.
Jones said during the race that he had opposed GOP spending bills when they included aid for Afghanistan or cut funding for veterans. He called for Bush to be impeached for misleading the United States on the war in Iraq. He also has voted against sanctions on Iran and aid to Israel.
Jones’ opponents cited a Washington magazine that in 2012 rated Jones as the “most liberal” House Republican based on key votes in 2011. Other organizations, including the tea party group FreedomWorks, rated Jones as extremely conservative.
Outside spending from two groups that together spent $1 million helped Griffin.
The Emergency Committee for Israel, an advocacy group that doesn’t disclose its donors, spent $317,000, and the Ending Spending Fund, a super PAC that partially discloses donors, spent $735,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks money in politics.
An ECI ad said Jones was the most liberal Republican and criticized him for opposing sanctions on Iran. The Ending Spending ad said Jones 20 years ago “shared our North Carolina values” but now has “forgotten us.”
Jones said in a note to supporters that the ads were false attacks from “special interests” who “make things up.”
Jones’ ads against Griffin attacked him as an outsider and lobbyist.
Griffin, 38, an Eastern North Carolina native, went to Washington after college to work for Sen. Jesse Helms in 1999 and stayed. He worked on President George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004, in the White House media office, from 2001 to 2003, and in the communications office of the Treasury Department from 2003 to 2006. In 2008, he was a spokesman for Sarah Palin when she was John McCain’s running mate.
He founded Hamilton Place Strategies, a public affairs consulting firm in Washington, and moved to New Bern last year.