This week, voters in eastern North Carolina will have the opportunity to decide the political fate of one of its more independent members.
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican representing North Carolina's third district since 1995, will engage in a re-match against former political consultant Taylor Griffin. In 2014, Griffin, a former adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain, lost to Jones by a 51-45 margin.
Jones is perhaps best known for his policy stances - against Middle Eastern wars and his effort to declassify 28 pages of the 9/11 Report - that reflect a political independence. The North Carolina third district is reliably Republican, though Jones' antiwar stances have often drawn attention because the district is home to Marine base Camp Lejeune.
In their previous contest, Griffin focused on Jones' tendency to vote against his own party, noting that "California should have the most liberal Republican [House member], not eastern North Carolina."
Jones has answered objections that he is insufficiently partisan by saying, "When my party is right, I'm proud to vote with my party," while conceding that not every policy proposed by the GOP is best for his district.
This year, Griffin is focusing on foreign policy to counter his opponent. In one ad, Griffin charges that Jones "empowered Obama to cut a deal with Iran," while the former promises to "stand with our friends and against our enemies."
However, FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, investigated the ad and deemed it misleading. Griffin's claim was based on Jones' signing of a letter sent to President Barack Obama to engage in "robust, sustained diplomacy" with Iran, but which did not grant the president additional power to negotiate such a deal. Jones eventually voted against the agreement.
Along with foreign policy, money may play a critical factor in the North Carolina race. According to OpenSecrets.org, Griffin has outraised Jones $641,446 to $493,224.
A criticism of Griffin's 2014 run was that many of his campaign contributions came from outside the North Carolina third district. Among his donors in 2016 is Paul Singer, a well-known GOP backer of gay rights and amnesty for illegal immigrants. Despite Griffin's stated opposition to those issues, the two presumably have shared hawkish foreign policy visions.
Jones was quick to capitalize on the money issue when Griffin held a campaign fundraiser at the Chevy Chase, Maryland home of Rob Nichols, a man Jones termed a "Wall Street lobbyist." Griffin and Nichols worked together in the Treasury Department under the George W. Bush administration.
A third Republican, Phil Law, is also in the race, but lacks the money and name recognition of either Jones or Griffin. However, political observers believe that any support Law garners, as an anti-Jones candidate, would essentially siphon votes from Griffin and diminish the candidate's chances of defeating Jones.
North Carolina held its presidential primary in March and low voter turnout is expected.