Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Back in March I pointed to the possibility that North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones, a conservative on most issues other than Iraq, where he has staked out an anti-war position, would leave the GOP and join the Democrats. Well, it hasn't happened yet, but perhaps it may soon given the way Jones' caucus is treating him. The Hill's Jackie Kucinich has the story.

Rep. Walter Jones's (N.C.) position on the Iraq war is likely to keep him out of the Armed Services Committee's Republican leadership despite his seniority, as the panel's ranking member mulls who will succeed former Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.) as Readiness subcommittee ranking member, according to sources on both sides of the aisle.

A spokesman for Armed Services ranking member Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said he has yet to make a decision and is working through the process of naming a successor to Davis, who died Oct. 6 following a two-year battle with breast cancer.

Jones most likely will be passed over for the subcommittee's ranking member position for the second time in the 110th Congress, according to a congressional source familiar with the discussions. The anti-war Republican has been slighted in the past for siding with Democratic leadership on Iraq war resolutions.

[...]

Despite his party's dissatisfaction, Jones has found it easier to get things done for his district by working with Democrats, he said in an April interview with The Hill.

As I noted back in March, Jones has already previously been a member of the Democratic Party, having unsuccessfully run as a Democrat for the congressional seat being vacated by his father, also a Democrat, in 1992, before winning his current seat as a Republican in 1994. Were he to switch parties during this Congress, he would put a seat (North Carolina 3) that is otherwise not really in play for the Democrats (it leans about 15 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections, according to the Cook PVI) on the map.

There is little doubt that he would be among the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus were he to join it (either as a Democrat or a Democratic-leaning independent). To take one example, Jones voted against the expansion of SCHIP earlier this year -- though that can at least in part be chalked up to the fact that he represents a state uniquely hit by the increased tax on cigarettes (given the prominent role the tobacco industry plays in the North Carolina economy). That said, at least according to the 2006 National Journalvote rankings, Jones lines up on the left side of the aisle, voting liberally than 53.5 percent of his colleagues in the second session of the 109th Congress, which is about as good as one could ask for from a district as inherently Republican as North Carolina's third. So I, for one, would be happy to see Jones jump ship from the Republican Party.

Tags: 110th congress, House 2008, Iraq, NC-03, Party switch, Walter Jones (all tags)

Comments

23 Comments

Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Just out of curiosity... When was the last time we saw a federal legislature, (Representative or Senator) change their political party?  (while being elected - Chafee doesn't fit the example)

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-10-15 09:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Rodney Alexander (LA) and Ralph Hall (TX) switched from Republican to Democrat in 2004, and Sen. Jeffords switched from Republican to independent in 2001.

by need some wood 2007-10-15 09:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

I had that backwards, the two congressmen switched from Democrat to Republican.

by need some wood 2007-10-15 09:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Oh okay.  Thanks.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-10-15 09:39PM | 0 recs
there was a guy from NY

Long Island, I believe, who switched from R to D. He lost the next time around. When was that?

by Carl Nyberg 2007-10-16 01:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Two Senators changed parties in the 1990s. Richard Shelby (AL) changed from D to R in 1994, and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO) changed from D to R in 1995. (I think.)

by arkansasdemocrat 2007-10-15 11:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

That is correct.  Party switches aren't really that rare.  Remember Democrat turned Republican Michael Forbes, the congressman who represented NY-1?  He switched in 1999 before being beaten in the 2000 Democratic primary by cynical NRCC ads.  Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) switched in about 2000 from D to I, and later from I to R.  Sen. Robert Smith (R-NH) briefly left his party in 1999 and sat as an independent.  Rep. Nathan Deal (GA) switched from D to R in or about 1995.  A retiring Hispanic congressman from CA whose name escapes me at the moment switched from D to R in his final months in 2000, upset over Democrats' not supporting him while he endured ethical problems.

by Sandwich Repairman 2007-10-16 04:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Here is a comprehensive list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_switc hing_in_the_United_States#Notable_party_ switchers

by Sandwich Repairman 2007-10-16 04:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Quote from the article:

However, Jones has said repeatedly that he did not come to Congress to be in leadership.

"I am an independent. There are issues I vote with my party on; there are issues I don't," he said in February.

I would love to see him switch parties, but I don't see it happening.  The quote gives off this idea that even though he's a member of the Republican party, he sees himself as an independant.  If he felt these differences were enough to change his affiliation, I'm guessing he would have already.  Another quote that discourages the idea of him changing parties.  

And I said, `Chairman, I'm disappointed, but I'm not mad. But I would ask you, if I'm not going to be ranking member, that you would put me on the oversight committee,' " Jones recalled. Hunter did.

Some sense of loyalty and appreciation there... I just don't see it.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-10-15 09:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

I grew up in that district and I know him personally trust me Rep Jones is closer to making the jump than most people realize, however he will play this close to the vest unless and until he decides to make the move.  He has been keeping up talks with several key Democrats in the state and on capital hill, but if he does not make the switch this month, October 2007, switch talks will be put on hold until after the 2008 elections.  But if you wish to see any indicaters see if Rep Jones appears to be indifferent about other Republicans running for election and see if the NC Democratic party is indifferent about his Democratic opponett.  If both of those are in play then that is a good indication to his future plans.

by THE MODERATE 2007-10-16 07:59AM | 0 recs
$42 billion a year warring against marijuana

That's what it's costing taxpayers for the government to go after marijuana users. 738,916 were arrested in 2006 for marijuana possession. But,

there were 611,523 arrests last year for all violent crimes combined.
 Rob Kampla, Marijuana Policy Project, http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/644 65/.

Law enforcement is more interested in arresting marijuana users than it is in arresting violent criminals.

It would take only $7 billion to fully fund SCHIP for one year. That would leave $35 billion left over to fund American-friendly activity like increasing public school teachers' salaries.

by Hempy 2007-10-15 10:37PM | 0 recs
We should take an even closer look at...

Wayne Gilchrest in MD-01.  He was the only other Republican voting with us on Iraq back in March.

The GOP is trying to cast him aside, running a much more conservative challenger, state senator Andrew Harris.  The Club for Growth is getting in this race, supporting Harris too.

Gilchrest is pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-stem cell research, wants a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and is definitely no chickenhawk, having seen real combat in Vietnam, and surviving getting shot in the chest.  The guy has a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and a Navy Commendation Medal.

Read this Reason interview with him from back in May, and tell me if you don't think the guy sounds more like a Jim Webb-type Democrat than a Republican.

by BruinKid 2007-10-15 10:41PM | 0 recs
Re: We should take an even closer look at...

Perhaps so but I am not sure Rep. Gilchrest has given any interst in a party switch Jones has.

by THE MODERATE 2007-10-16 08:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

I wonder if he is hesitant to change parties because he doesn't want to expose himself to being beat up for being a Bush Dog Democrat.

He doesn't sound too dis-similar from other conservative Dems, but looking at how we activists treat them, I'm not sure I'd sign up for that either.

For everyone involved, I'd like to see him go Bernie Sanders and be an Indy that caucuses with the Dems.

And, I believe he was the "Freedom Fries" guy, wasn't he?

by Nolan 2007-10-16 05:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

"And, I believe he was the "Freedom Fries" guy, wasn't he?"  Yes he was though he has long since admitted that was a mistake and the Democratic party does not seem to care.

"I wonder if he is hesitant to change parties because he doesn't want to expose himself to being beat up for being a Bush Dog Democrat.

He doesn't sound too dis-similar from other conservative Dems, but looking at how we activists treat them, I'm not sure I'd sign up for that either."

He would be a blue dog Democrat but his district is the kind a blue dog would do well.

by THE MODERATE 2007-10-16 08:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

No, the freedom fries guy was Bob Ney, then chair of the House Administration Committee.

by Sandwich Repairman 2007-10-16 04:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

This would do wonders for improving Dem prospects in NC and other more pragmatic Southern states.  It would be tough for him to hold the seat, but perhaps he could challenge Liddy Dole for Senate as a Dem?  Eastern NC is the "swing" constituency for statewide elections, and Jones would definitely do better there than any alternatives (given how many high-profile folks have passed).

by NC State Dem 2007-10-16 06:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Folks,

I used to live in Jones' district. People there were so proud when he came up with "Freedom Fries" and then nearly equally angry (sort of a district-scale version of R anger at Senator Hagel) when he came out against the war.

I lived out in Dare County - perhaps the "liberal" part of the district, and the anti-war protests consisted of 5 or if lucky 10 of us waving signs along the side of the main drag.

I think http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congr ess/110/house/party-voters/ provides a better view of Jones' voting record - (warning - it's very slow to load even with a cable modem connection)
and its not dissimilar to that of the few remaining Northeastern Rs.

Jones' father also represented the district, as a boll weivil D. While the R advantage is substantial, his name could at least keep him competitive if he were to swtich (though I think it would still be R favored)

BTW, the district also includes the home base for Blackwater.

by tietack 2007-10-16 06:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Virgil Goode went from Democrat to Indy to Republican over the course of a few years.

If Club for Growth primaries Jones, maybe he'll form a "North Carolina for Jones" party and continue to run in the general.

I'm only half kidding. I'd take Jones as a NC Democrat any day. In fact, Traitor Joe himslef would make an acceptable Democrat from a conservative Southern state. It's having him from deep blue Connecticut that bothers me.

If his district is that red, I figure he wouldn't get as much grief for being a blue dog as Democrats from northern states do. In fact, he'd probably gain points wearing that label as a badge of honor for the people whose opinions matter most to him--the voters in NC-3. Wise Democrats should primary those Wynns and Lipinskis whose constituencies support liberal Democratic values; to do so to someone like Gene Taylor or Heath Shuler would unacceptably risk electing a much worse Republican.

by admiralnaismith 2007-10-16 07:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Momentum.  The turning of the tide.  

How long since a sitting republican in congress changed to democratic?  As discussed by others above, recent history has had the switches the other way.  I well recall the switches to republican in the 1980's and 1990's.  It seemed like all of the momentum was with the R's.  

Now we have seen state-wide elected republicans switch to the democratic party and state legislators do the same.  It's time for it to happen in Congress.  So long as he votes right most of the time, and votes for Pelosi, I welcome him with open arms.  

by hilltopper 2007-10-16 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

 The last three were in 1971 Ogden Reid of New York switched.  Two years later Don Reigle of Michigan made the switch the next switch would be in 1999 when Michael Forbes of New York, no relation to Forbes 500 family made the switch.  

by THE MODERATE 2007-10-16 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

You're missing quite a lot in the intervening years there.

Walter Jones may be with us on the war and assorted other issues, but he is a rabid social conservative.  His record on church-state separation and other social issues is atricious.  If he were already a Democrat, most of us would be skewering him relentlessly dying for him to leave the Democratic Party--much like Zell Miller.  I don't particularly want him in our caucus or party, nor do I expect it to happen.  Nor do I think it would do us any good.  If he left the GOP to become an independent, that might help create more tension among congressional Republicans, though there's a lot already.

by Sandwich Repairman 2007-10-16 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Folks,

Just an FYI, this diary is being watched with a companion diary at RedState.com
http://www.redstate.com/blogs/liz_a_mair /2007/oct/16/mydd_hearts_walter_b_jones

by tietack 2007-10-16 05:23PM | 0 recs

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