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Death will trigger a special election in the state’s 3rd U.S. House district
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
GREENVILLE, North Carolina (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a libertarian maverick who frequently bucked his party’s leadership and became a vocal opponent of sending U.S. troops into foreign wars, has died at the age of 76.
Jones, who had been granted a leave of absence from the House in December due to ill health, died on his birthday Sunday at a hospice in Greenville, according to his office. He had entered the hospice in late January when he health took a downward turn after breaking a hip.
“Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity. He was never afraid to take a principled stand.” said a statement from his office issued upon his death. “Some may not have agreed with him, but all recognized that he did what he thought was right.”
His funeral is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Greenville.
Jones’s death will trigger a special election in North Carolina’s 3rd District, which takes in a wide swath of the eastern part of the state along the Atlantic Coast, including the Outer Banks.
After serving a decade in the North Carolina House as a Democrat, Jones was elected to Congress in 1994 as a Republican. His father, Walter Jones Sr., served as a Democratic member of Congress for 26 years before his death in 1992.
Together, father and son served a total of 50 years in the House, starting in 1967.
In 2003, the younger Jones, a strong supporter of the Iraq War, famously introduced a resolution to change the name of French fries to “freedom fries” in the House cafeteria after the French government voted against the U.S. invasion at the United Nations.
But as casualties mounted and no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Jones became a vocal critic of the war, saying Congress had been misled by faulty intelligence.
He then introduced legislation to try to force the Bush administration to bring the troops home — a stance that went down less than well in a district that is home to both the Fort Bragg Army base and Camp Lejeune Marine base.
But Jones saw off a primary challenge in 2008 and continued to be a frequent thorn in the side of Republican leaders. In 2011, Jones was stripped of his seat on the House Financial Services Committee after voting against a budget proposal pushed by his party leadership.
More recently, Jones signed on to a letter calling on Congress to obtain and examine President Donald Trump’s income tax returns, and he called for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election after Nunes discussed the investigation with White House officials.
Due to his health issues, Jones had already announced that he would not seek re-election in 2020, opening up the 3rd District seat, which leans Republican. He did not face Democratic opposition in 2018.
Governor Roy Cooper has not yet set the date of the special election to fill the vacancy. Each party will hold a primary, followed by a general election between the two winners.
The 3rd District seat is one of two North Carolina seats that are now open. In the 9th District, state elections officials have refused to certify the results in the November race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready because of allegations of absentee ballot fraud.
The State Board of Elections will convene February 18 to hear evidence in the case, which could lead to a new election.
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Hensarling’s retirement announcement comes just two weeks before filing begins for 2018 primaries
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
DALLAS (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Texas Republican who chairs the powerful House Financial Services Committee, has announced he won’t seek re-election in 2018, creating a third open House race in Texas less than two weeks before filing begins for the 2018 primaries.
“Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned,” said Hensarling, who was first elected to Congress in 2002 to represent Texas’s 5th District. “Although I will not be running for reelection, there are 14 months left in my congressional term to continue the fight for individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited constitutional government — the causes for which I remain passionate.”
Because of GOP term limits for committee chairman, Hensarling would have lost his chairmanship in 2019 had he remained in Congress, even if Republicans held control of the chamber. He said that with the end of his chairmanship, “the time seems right for my departure.”
Hensarling’s 5th District takes in eastern Dallas County and stretches into rural areas to the east and south. Although the district has a majority-minority population, it is solidly Republican, having gone for President Trump with 63 percent of the vote in 2016; Hensarling carried 80 percent.
However, Hensarling’s retirement is likely to set off a mad scramble for his seat, thanks to Texas’s early primary schedule. Filing opens November 11 and closes December 11, and the primary will be held on March 6. The only candidate in the race at the time of Hensarling’s October 31 retirement was Democrat Dan Wood, an attorney and city councilman from Terrell.
Before being electing to Congress, Hensarling, 60, was an aide to former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, and, like Gramm, cultivated an image as a fiscal hawk and opponent of increased government spending. In 2010, he was elected as chairman of the House Republican Conference, the fourth-ranking position in the House, a post he gave up to take the Financial Services chairmanship.
Hensarling is the third member of the Texas House delegation to forgo a re-election bid in 2016. Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke from El Paso is giving up his seat to challenge U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. GOP U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson from Dallas is retiring after 28 years in Congress.
While all three of these seats are unlikely to change hands, three Democrats are making a play for Johnson’s 3rd District seat, which Trump only carried with 55 percent of the vote.