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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- North Carolina -- 03

House Incumbents Still Alive

Down-ballot from the presidential and gubernatorial races, three House incumbents started yesterday unsure of their respective fates. But all three exited the primaries unscathed and with a good chance of returning to Congress in 2009.

Less than two months after winning a special election to serve out the remaining term of his late grandmother, Rep. Andre Carson held off a seven-candidate field of challengers yesterday to secure his place on the November ballot in Indiana's 7th District. Carson's top challenger, former state Health Commissioner Woody Myers, spent more than $1 million of his own money, but was unable to overcome Carson's advantages; the incumbent won 46% to Myers's 24%. State Reps. David Orentlicher and Carolene Mays finished with 21% and 8%, respectively. In the November general election, Carson will face Republican state Rep. Jon Elrod, whom he defeated 54%-43% in the March special election.

In North Carolina, GOP Reps. Walter Jones and Patrick McHenry yesterday overcame what should be their toughest challenges of this election cycle. Jones, serving his seventh term in the House, became vulnerable to a challenge from the right after becoming outspoken about his opposition to the Iraq war. Representing a district that votes heavily Republican and includes two large Marine Corps bases, Jones was one of only two Republicans to co-sponsor the February 2007 resolution opposing Bush's troop surge. However, Jones held off Onslow County Commissioner Joe McLaughlin, who was not able to raise a large sum of money, defeating him 60%-40%.

McHenry, the youngest member of Congress, is serving his second term in office and represents one of the most conservative districts in the state. He was challenged by Air Force officer Lance Sigmon, but ended up with a comfortable 67%-33% victory. McHenry faced some controversy when video surfaced of him calling a contractor in Iraq a "two-bit security guard." Sigmon used the video in an ad, but the issue apparently was not enough to knock the incumbent off.

-- Kyle Trygstad

NC Primary Eyes Iraq

Few members of the Republican caucus have more irritated those who support the war in Iraq than North Carolina's Walter Jones. The seven-term Republican is staunchly conservative and is known for his efforts on behalf of U.S. servicemembers -- Camp Lejeune, a major Marine base, is within Jones' district, and it was he who first proposed the notion of "freedom fries" in the House cafeteria, following the lead of a restaurant in his district.

But after attending a funeral of a Marine, Jones abruptly changed his position on the war in Iraq, and lately he has joined with Democrats in efforts to remove troops from the country. The Republican who keeps a copy of the Ten Commandments in his office in Washington now spends his Saturdays writing letters to families of those killed in combat.

Jones' changed position on the war, ultimately, is why he will spend tomorrow's primary election campaigning against a real opponent. Onslow County Commissioner Joe McLaughlin is running to replace Jones, citing what he told the Rocky Mount Telegram was Jones' "betrayal of the troops." Others in the district see it the same way: At Cubbie's, the diner that inspired "freedom fries," the owners support McLaughlin, as Politico's Josh Kraushaar found out last year.

McLaughlin and Jones have each spent most of their funds, FEC reports filed in late April show. Through April 16, Jones had raised just $432,000 and spent all but $42,000 of his war chest, leaving him with $40,000 in debt. McLaughlin had raised nearly $125,000 and spent all but $14,000 of it.

The race has generated plenty of interest in local and national media, but Jones has been surprisingly unavailable for interviews. Jones' chief of staff talked with the Telegram, while both Jones and his campaign spokesperson declined interviews for a Wall Street Journal article last week. Jones' office did not return Politics Nation's calls either.

Jones is not the only Republican incumbent with anti-war feelings who is getting heat this year. Maryland Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, long a more moderate Republican than Jones, was ousted in February after his opponent lambasted him, especially for his opposition to the war in Iraq. And Democrats who don't follow Party orthodoxy on the war can get in trouble as well; Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman had to run on an independent line after losing his primary in 2006, while Washington State Rep. Brian Baird has been the target of some blogosphere attacks after saying the surge is working last year. Baird, though, has yet to get a serious primary challenger.

While Jones might be in trouble in tomorrow's balloting, Republicans are likely to keep the heavily-GOP Third District. The seat spans the state's Outer Banks, with tentacles that reach toward the center of the state but which remain solidly conservative. President Bush won by 36 points in 2004 and by 29 points in 2000. Two Marine veterans are running for the Democratic nomination, but, for all intents and purposes, the battle between Jones and McLaughlin is likely to determine the winner come November.