The answer to that question may be revealed on May 8th in North Carolina. Lee Fang writes about an interesting Republican primary race in a congressional district where Walter Jones, the Republican incumbent who has bucked his party and Donald Trump on several issues, is being challenged by a lobbyist who accuses him of being disloyal to Trump.
Jones, who is in his 11th term in office, cuts an unlikely figure in Washington, D.C. He has fought for a higher minimum wage, tougher regulations on Wall Street, and stronger limits on big money in politics. He has called for restrictions on government surveillance, sharply criticized the leadership of his party for being too cozy with K Street lobbyists and corporate interests, and waged a one-man battle to rein in United States-backed wars raging throughout the Middle East. Though once a strong supporter of the Iraq War, Jones changed his tune as the disastrous war unfolded: “Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney,” he once quipped.
These sorts of strident positions have put him at odds with Republican-aligned special interest groups and the GOP establishment over the years, with party leadership at one point revoking a plum committee assignment, and also dispatching a parade of Washington insiders to undermine him in his Republican primary. Jones has beaten back every attempt in the past, but faces a spirited challenge again this year.
For two consecutive cycles in 2012 and 2014, a Republican operative named Taylor Griffin challenged Jones using a similar playbook. Griffin, who previously worked at a public relations firm for the banking industry, claimed Jones was too liberal and too friendly with Democrats. Super PACs, Wall Street PACs, GOP leadership PACs, and undisclosed dark money from outside organizations, including pro-Israel groups, poured over $1 million into race to unseat Jones. As one of the only GOP lawmakers to vote for the post-financial crisis regulations on the banking sector, observers noted that the influx of financial industry cash appeared to be retribution by the industry over his maverick voting record.
In both races, though, Jones — who has deep roots in the district, having taken over his father’s congressional seat — emerged victorious.
The Republicans have lost congressional seats to Democrats in special elections suggesting that Trump’s appeal is wearing thin. But the primary races are where rue believers v show up and the result on May 8 will be interesting as a measure of whether he is losing support among the party faithful as well.