Walter Jones headed for his final term in Congress

In many ways Democrats just dodged a bullet:

Walter Jones, the 12-term North Carolina congressman perhaps best known for helping to popularize the term “Freedom Fries” during the Iraq War, defeated his Donald Trump-supporting challenger, Scott Dacey, in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

Jones’ victory, called by the Associated Press, virtually guarantees him another term representing North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, which Trump won by about 20 percentage points in 2016. No Democrats filed to run in 2018.

It may come as a shocker, but I'm happier about this result than most other contests, even among Democrats. From the moment I realized this was the only state/federal race that NC Democrats failed to challenge, two things have been going through my head: 1) If any race had to be conceded, this is the one. Jones is not only the most moderate (by far) Republican in NC's Congressional delegation, he's arguably the most moderate Republican in Congress, period:

Jones, first elected to his seat in 1994, has voted consistently in ways that he believes support military families—sometimes to the chagrin of his fellow Republicans. After initially supporting the Iraq War—and leading the charge to rename French fries and French toast in the House’s cafeteria—he did an about-face while attending a funeral of a marine at Camp Lejeune. He later pressed the Bush administration to develop a timeline to withdraw from Iraq.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Jones has voted with Trump 53 percent of the time—the least of any Republican member of Congress—which contributed to Dacey’s challenge from his right. Should Jones win in November, this thirteenth term will likely be his last. He told the News and Observer he would not run again in 2020.

Which leads me to the second thought (worry) that's plagued me since filing ended: What if Walter Jones loses his Primary? Aside from losing that moderate voice in GOP House ranks, his main opponent is such a huge Trump supporter he would vote for anything that dimwit wanted. Scott Dacey is adamantly against abortion, same-sex marriage, immigrants, and pretty much the whole gamut of bigoted, regressive ideas that have percolated out of the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party.

Here's what a Walter Jones victory in NC's 9th Congressional District yesterday tells me: First and foremost, Trump is not as popular there as he is in other deeply-red districts. Yes, Jones is an incumbent who has been sent back to DC regularly for 24 years. But both his opponents hammered him on his record for not supporting Trump's initiatives. Second thing: When we do field a Dem candidate in 2020 (which we damned sure better), it will be an open race, with no GOP incumbent to deal with. And not to put too fine a point on it, we need to seriously consider fielding a military veteran when we do that. We're not just talking about Camp Lejeune, there's New River and Cherry Point air stations, a couple of Coast Guard bases, and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base right outside the District, but with many active duty and retired AF peeps living in the 3rd. A Dem veteran could take that seat in 2020, hands-down.



Citizen lobbying

In my past work we'd help citizens meet with legislators to share issues they're concerned about and talk about campaign finance reform issues too. I helped with meeting with Congress members in the triangle and eastern NC. Elected officials like Rep. Price and Rep. Butterfield and other Dems were quick to come on board, but to my happy surprise so was Rep. Jones as the first Republican to support that particular piece of legislation not just in NC but in the nation, giving it some bipartisan cred. It didn't pass that session, but as with a lot of legislative efforts that don't have big money behind them it's a building process that takes several years of trying and growing the coalition & growing the votes for it to have a shot, and that was an important step.