Pro-Israel group slams GOP lawmaker Walter Jones

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W. James Antle III Managing Editor
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The Emergency Committee for Israel has launched a six-figure ad campaign against North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones, hitting the ten-term incumbent on Israel and foreign policy.

Taylor Griffin of Hamilton Place Strategies, a former aide to President George W. Bush, is running to unseat Jones in a May primary.

The ad criticizes Jones for voting against Iran sanctions and  declining to support pro-Israel resolutions, as well as receiving the endorsement of J Street. J Street bills itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace,” but many supporters of Israel dispute this characterization.  The Emergency Committee for Israel describes J Street as an “anti-Israel PAC.”

“Once upon a time, Walter Jones was right for North Carolina but he’s changed,” says the 30-second spot. “Isn’t it time your vote changed as well?”

“Rep. Jones has embraced the foreign policy views of Barack Obama and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party to such an extent that Congressional Quarterly ranks him the most pro-Obama Republican in the House,” Emergency Committee for Israel executive director Noah Pollak said in a statement. “Conservative voters of North Carolina should know just how much he’s changed since they first sent him to Congress.”

Many of Jones’ backers are conservative Christians, strong supporters of Israel.

This isn’t the only outside group involved in this North Carolina primary. Ending Spending Action Fund, a super PAC formed by TD Ameritrade Founder Joe Ricketts, is also campaigning against Jones, Roll Call reports.

Neither Jones nor Griffin are particularly well funded on their own. Roll Call reports that Jones began the year with $127,000 in cash on hand, Griffin with $87,000. First-quarter fundraising reports are due to the Federal Election Commission on April 15.

Jones, whose father was a Democratic congressman from North Carolina, was first elected in the Republican landslide of 1994. He lobbied to rechristen French fries as “freedom fries” to protest French opposition to the Iraq war.

Since Jones turned against the Iraq war himself in 2005, he has alienated some in his own party. Jones represents a military-heavy district that includes the Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune.

In 2008, Jones was opposed in the GOP primary by a coalition of economic and national security conservatives, including Grover Norquist. They argued the incumbent had become too liberal. But Jones ended up defeating his challenger, Onslow County Commissioner Joseph McLaughlin.

McLaughlin struggled to raise money. In a difficult year for Republicans, there was some reluctance to support a GOP primary challenge to an incumbent. This year is a more favorable political climate for Republicans. Six years ago, there were also no super PACs.

The  primary is May 6.

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W. James Antle III