Primaries Deciding Races in Republican-Drawn Districts

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) (3rd L), Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) (L), Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) (R) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) (2nd L) prior to a news conference on Syria on June 27, 2013 on Capitol Hill.

Demographic shifts and the configuration of congressional districts have helped limit the number of politically competitive districts in the Nov. 4 elections. Many of these districts are so one-sided that victory in the party primary is tantamount to a general election win.

The person who serves North Carolina’s 3rd District in the House next year surely will come out of the May 6 Republican primary, given the strong conservative lean of a rural and coastal constituency stretching from the Virginia border to Wilmington. President Barack Obama won just 40 percent of the 3rd District vote in the 2012 election.

Rep. Walter Jones, who’s seeking an 11th term, has bucked Republican leaders on key votes such as opposing House Speaker John Boehner’s re-election. He’s the last Republican left in the House of the three who voted for the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul. Jones also wants to reinstate a 1930s law, the Glass-Steagall Act, that separated commercial and investment banking.

As we report today for Bloomberg News, some of the biggest banks and their Washington allies are seeking to dump Jones and install one of their top allies: Taylor Griffin, a former campaign spokesman and Treasury aide for President George W. Bush who later worked for Washington-based groups that advocated for the biggest financial services companies.

JP Morgan, Bank of America and Wells Fargo have donated to Griffin through their PACs, as his campaign finance report shows. It’s unusual for business PACs to finance a primary challenger.

Those sources helped Griffin raise $114,000 in his first three months in the race, so he’ll surely top the $144,000 that Jones’s 2008 primary challenger, Joe McLaughlin, raised in the entirety of an unsuccessful primary challenge that netted 41 percent to Jones’s 59 percent. (Doug Raymond, an eastern North Carolinian who managed McLaughlin’s effort, is running Griffin’s operation.) Griffin needs a big campaign fund to boost his name identification in a district where he isn’t well-known.

He would overhaul entitlement spending and backs term limits, saying he’d provide more effective representation.

“When we gerrymander districts such that none of them are competitive, politicians are safe and they’re no longer responsive to the people,” Griffin said over a biscuits-and-gravy breakfast last week at Baker’s Kitchen in New Bern, his adopted hometown. “That’s what’s I saw as one of the big problems, and the conclusion that I came to is that we have to look at primary elections as general elections.”

Jones’s supporters tout the incumbent’s constituent-services operation aiding retirees and military veterans. His opposition to illegal immigration and new spending programs plays well in the district, Jones’s backers say.

A big question: will outside groups such as super-PACs get involved in the race?

Here’s the story.

Stay tuned at Political Capital this year for more coverage of this race and other primaries leading up to Election Day.

What do you think about this article? Comment below!