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GOP Establishment Bats .500 in North Carolina

North Carolina was in the cross-hairs of public attention last night for three primary battles, two of which did not involve American Idol season two runner-up Clay Aiken.

Walter Jones has represented the North Carolina coast and the 3rd congressional district for nearly 20 years, yet had to defeat a rare establishment-funded primary challenge from a K Street veteran of the George W. Bush White House. Jones’s district includes Camp Lejune’s 40,000 Marines, and the fiercely patriotic representative went so far as to push for french fries to be renamed freedom fries when France refused to support the Iraq War. Yet, as Jim Antle detailed [1] in this year’s January/February issue of the print magazine, Jones was one of the very first Republicans to turn against the war when he lost faith in the pretext he had been given. Since then, he may have been the most fiercely outspoken opponent of the Iraq war on either side of the aisle. This may help explain why Emergency Committee for Israel and Ending Spending, two large establishment GOP organizations, dropped a combined $1,000,000 into the race, half supporting his challenger, half hitting Jones. Despite their efforts, however, Jones was able to convince his constituents to let him keep working for them:

The more prominent of the GOP’s primary battles involved the race to challenge vulnerable first-term Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan for the state’s junior senate seat. Thom Tillis was the race’s clear party favorite, the speaker of the house who presided over an unprecedented consolidation of Republican power in Raleigh after the 2010 tidal wave gave the GOP super-majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. Tillis received a steady and significant infusion of outside assistance in recent weeks from Karl Rove and other establishment GOP groups intent on keeping their man out of a messy run-off election should he not receive 40 percent of the vote. He proudly advertised his endorsements from Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush on his homepage as of election night.

Thom Tillis   U.S. Senate [4]

Tillis received an unexpectedly strong challenge from a Tea Party upstart, obstetrician Greg Brannon, who was endorsed by Rand Paul and Mike Lee, and received a last-minute visit from Paul the day before the election. Yet, as Jim Antle chronicled last week, Brannon’s business fraud charges, 9/11 truther complications, and website plagiarism sabotaged his own effort to follow in Rand Paul’s footsteps. Tillis made his own significant gaffes as well, such as when the Maryland native referred to grilling as a barbecue:

Tillis compounded the error when he coyly refused to identify his favorite barbecue [8] at a debate (the state is split between Eastern-style and Lexington-style), despite representing a district firmly within Lexington (the correct choice) territory. Perhaps Hagan will be able to capitalize on the error where Brannon fell short.

Follow @joncoppage [9]

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#1 Comment By Glaivester On May 7, 2014 @ 8:13 am

The establishment batted .667. You are forgetting the Renee Ellemrs/Frank Roche primary. Unfortunately, the amnesty-pusher Ellmers held on.

By the way, let’s not forget that Jones is stridently against amnesty, while Griffin is a former Bush employee.

#2 Comment By Zathras On May 7, 2014 @ 11:06 am

The Establishment may have batted .500, but their slugging percentage is significantly higher. They won the more important one here.

#3 Comment By William Dalton On May 7, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

A more interesting race many of us here had pushed for would have been between Thom Tillis and Walter Jones. Nevertheless we’re glad we’ll have the Congressman back for another term, one in which we hope there will be House leadership that puts him in the chairmanship of a major committee.

And I’m also consoling my friends that Tillis, so far at least, is not showing himself to be another John McCain or Lindsay Graham. If he is wise, Tillis will take the time now to build bridges to Brannon supporters, who at the moment have no inclination to vote for him in November (there will also be a Libertarian candidate on the ballot, determined by that party’s own primary yesterday). I would suggest he come out now with strong statements declaring his intention to view critically any Presidential requests for authority for foreign military operations or military assistance, and the pledge to be a zealous guardian of the citizens’ freedom from government spying and other intrusions.

#4 Comment By isaacplautus On May 7, 2014 @ 3:14 pm

Tillis has such a conservative record in Raleigh that it was impossible for any of the other guys to get to his right. He’s helped restrict abortion and ban gay marriage. He’s slashed social services and
created one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country. These are things few conservatives will disagree with. But many in NC do, and the election will be as much a referendom on Tillis’ record in Raleigh as Hagan’s in DC.