2014: The year of the GOP establishment stalking horses?






Well, it appears Walter Jones is picking up another primary opponent:

Taylor Griffin, a former aide to President George W. Bush who went on to co-found Hamilton Place Strategies, has moved back home to eastern North Carolina and on Thursday will announce a challenge to a fellow Republican, Rep. Walter Jones. Jones, a former Democrat who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, made headlines by voting for the Iraq war and then becoming one of its most vocal GOP opponents. Jones once told a conference of Ron Paul supporters: “Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney.”

Griffin, 38, said in a phone interview that he plans to run as a “real conservative:” “California should have the most liberal Republican [House member], not eastern North Carolina. … When a few people started talking to me about this race, I said, ‘Well, I’ll go and talk to some people and see what I think about it.’ I started spending time here with grass-roots activists and civic leaders and fishermen and asking them about it, and they all told me that they’d like me to run.” His slogan: “Conservative Principles Mean Conservative Results.”

Hmm. Mr. “Real Conservative” set up a lobbying and PR shop in DC with a partner who, until recently, was one of Barry Obama’s press flacks.  if you look at the staff profiles, the firm is loaded with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama alumni.  There are a few token Republicans, who worked for “conservative giants” like Olympia Snowe, Mitt Romney and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

The roster for Griffin’s campaign team looks like a Who’s Who of GOP establishment types in Raleigh and DC.  His campaign lawyer, Ben Ginsberg, is famous for authoring those notorious rules changes at the 2012 Republican National Convention. 

I’ve had some disagreements with Jones in the past, but lately he’s had me smiling with his stances on the debt ceiling, federal spending and ObamaCare. He regularly puts his thumb in the eye of the House leadership. That earned him removal from some key committees, and likely had something to do with this particular primary challenge.

The mainstream media is trying to cast Mark Harris’s entry into the GOP’s US Senate primary as an inside-outside fight between  Harris and state House speaker Thom Tillis.  Tillis’s campaign is loaded up with establishment figures from Raleigh and Charlotte. But it is a stretch to call Harris an outsider candidate.  His consultant is nationally-renowned Tom Perdue of Georgia, and former congressman and NCGOP chairman Robin Hayes is his chairman.  His staff is loaded with former NCGOP employees.  These rosters read like an intra-squad scrimmage between the members of the GOP establishment.

Conventional wisdom is out there that Harris was pulled into the race to  slice conservative support from Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon — who is fundraising and polling well against establishment favorite Tillis.  It came out today that Robin Hayes personally flew Harris around the state Wednesday in his (Hayes’) personal aircraft for a barnstorming campaign roll-out. Harris is closely tied to former Charlotte mayor and current governor Pat McCrory.  McCrory was the featured speaker at Harris’ installation at Charlotte’s First Baptist Church.

The timing of Harris’ formal announcement is also curious. It comes just after the third quarter campaign reports were due.  The next reporting deadline is not until the end of the year.  If Harris had announced a little earlier, he would have had to release details on his campaign finances.  I am betting that those reports would have shown his campaign is mostly financed by Hayes, the Hayes family, and other Hayes-connected sources. 

You can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep.  Taylor Griffin is surrounding himself with heavy-hitters from the DC and Raleigh political establishment.  Greg Brannon is associating himself with people like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. Mark Harris and Thom Tillis are surrounding themselves with people who have a record of trying to stomp out the Tea Party in North Carolina.