Following changes in control over a chamber of Congress, it is not uncommon to see a member or many members of the newly-minted minority leaving their party in favor of the new majority caucus. Following the 1994 midterms, for instance, a number of once Democratic Representatives and Senators (Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby are two large names that come to mind) defected from their party. Although there has yet to be a Senator or Congressman who switched his partisan allegiance from the GOP to the Democratic Party since the 2006 midterms, the possibility remains that one or more still will. Writing in the Thursday edition of The Hill, Jackie Kucinich takes a look at the entreaties offered to one GOP Rep. by the Democrats.
[North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter] Jones's position on Iraq has drawn Democrats to him in recent years, and particularly in the last two months, since he was denied a subcommittee chairmanship on the Armed Services Committee.
While declining to identify which of "several" Democrats have approached him about switching parties, Jones said, as he has many times before, that he plans to stick with the GOP for now.
"Obviously there were some Democrats when I was not given the ranking member status of Armed Services [who wanted] to chat with me," he said, noting that Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) has said publicly that his party would support a swap.
"I [would] welcome him in the Democratic Caucus," Taylor told CongressDaily in January.
"You know it's my political nature to be ... I'm guided by my faith. Quite frankly, I'm strong pro-life," Jones said to explain his allegiance, noting that he didn't believe the Democratic leadership was in line with him on such social issues. "I just take each day as it comes; I certainly think about where I will be a year or two, three years from now, but that's God's plan, not mine ... I think at the present time, because of the pro- life issue primarily, I am where I need to be.
"But I am an independent. There are issues I vote with my party on; there are issues I don't," he said.
Jones is no stranger to the Democratic Party. His father, Walter B. Jones Sr. represented a similar portion of North Carolina for more than 25 years -- as a Democrat -- and when the younger Jones ran to succeed his father in 1992 he did so, unsuccessfully, as a Democrat. Two years later, Jones ran as a Republican and won, and has since maintained that same party allegiance in the House.
But at the same time, Jones is not the most partisan member of his caucus -- not by a long shot. While Jones' standing as one of the leading proponents of bringing an end to the Iraq War from either party has set him apart from most of his fellow Republicans, on a whole range of other issues he voted more like a centrist/conservative Southern Democrat than a traditional Republican. According to 2006 vote rankings from National Journal, Jones tended to vote more liberally than 53.5 percent of his colleagues in the House across all issues (57 percent on economic and foreign policy, 45 percent on social policy), ranking him more liberal than 10 Democrats and all but two Republicans. Similarly, CQ found that on party line votes during over the course of 2006 Jones was the third most likely Republican and eighth most likely member of the House to defect from his party's caucus, doing so about 36 percent of the time.
Now there is certainly credence to the notion that the political cover given to a political party by having a member of the opposing member on its side, thus giving it "bipartisan support", is more beneficial than the addition of one more member, particularly when that party's majority in a chamber is not so small as to be affected by a party switch in the other direction or a sudden retirement. That said, in this particular case House Democrats would well served by adding Jones to their ranks. The district Jones represents, North Carolina's third, leans about 15 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections, according to the Cook Political Report's PVI, and as such is not likely to swing Democratic any time soon in the absence of a party switch by Jones. What's more, Jones is established enough in his district that he would likely be able to hold on to his seat even if challenged by the Republicans following a party switch.
It is worth reiterating that Jones not in line with the Democratic Party on every issue, most notably the issue of choice, and that, what's more, he would be one of the more conservative members of the party caucus in the House. That said, if you want to let Jones know that you would like to see him join the Democratic Party -- particularly if you are a constituent of his, but even if you're not -- send him an email through this form or give him a call (his official number is available here, his campaign number here).