The Republican establishment is ready to take another crack at unseating Rep. Walter Jones—and it might have found a new candidate to lead the charge.
Anthony Tata, the Republican secretary of transportation in North Carolina and a veteran with nearly three decades of military experience, is preparing to run in a primary against the longtime GOP House member, according to a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the planned campaign. One source close to Tata, granted anonymity to speak candidly, said the secretary is "seriously looking" at a campaign but cautioned there was not yet a timetable for his decision.
His candidacy would be the latest Republican effort to defeat Jones, a controversial figure within the GOP who has spoken out forcefully against the Iraq war and foreign aid to Israel. His dovish views have alienated him from House GOP leadership and the party's foreign policy hawks. During Jones's 2014 campaign, a pair of Republican outside groups, Ending Spending Fund and Emergency Committee for Israel, combined to spend more than $1 million trying to defeat the incumbent in his primary.
Jones, who represents the heavily Republican 3rd Congressional District along North Carolina's eastern shore, barely squeaked by with 51 percent of the primary vote against former George W. Bush aide Taylor Griffin. A primary against Tata could be more difficult: The GOP base has grown increasingly hawkish during the rise of ISIS and President Obama's nuclear-arms negotiations with Iran, so much so that polls show foreign policy now ranks among Republicans' top issues.