Differences and depth offer intriguing choices for Congress

By on October 30, 2014

houseWith 20 years under his belt in the 3rd Congressional District, Republican U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones holds a distinct advantage in his campaign for re-election.

But Marshall Adame, his Democratic challenger, has plenty of depth in his own right, offering broad experience as a U.S. Marine and State Department adviser.

Despite their party labels, both can be seen as moderate to conservative and share some of the same views on several issues. But their differences offer a clear choice.


Walter Jones: A formidable incumbent

By Catherine Kozak

In the two decades that U.S. Rep. Walter Jones has represented coastal North Carolina in Washington, he has prided in himself as a principled congressman who doesn’t shift positions with changing political winds.

Some view him as too conservative; others see him as not conservative enough. Most have liked him well enough to return him to office 10 times.

Jones is facing off against Democrat Marshall Adame, a retired Marine and former State Department adviser in Iraq. Polls have indicated that Jones should not be worried about securing an 11th term serving the 3rd Congressional District, but the Farmville Republican is not taking his re-election for granted.

Heavy hitters in the party such as U.S. Rep. Rand Paul from Kentucky have campaigned with Jones, which has helped pump up conservatives who may have disliked Jones’ anti-war stance and support for the minimum wage. But Jones believes that his responsive constituent service also matters to voters.

“All I can say is I have one of the best staffs in America,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “We’re running on the record of service to my district.”

Jones, 71, is ruby red conservative on social issues, yet he can be a thorn in the side of party leaders on issues like the federal budget, the military and national defense. And he has openly lamented the role money plays in policy-making in Washington.

After angering House leadership, he was removed in 2012 from the Financial Services Committee, although he remains a member of the House Committee on Armed Services. Still, he declined to part ways with his party.

“I’m an independent Republican, there’s a difference, ” he said in a Feb. 2014 article in Roll Call. “You’re a Republican, then you’re a puppet of the leadership. I got kicked off a committee. I am not a puppet . . . I’m happy where I am. As long as I can do what I think my conscience wants me to do for the people I represent, I’m OK.”

When Jones was elected to the House in 1995, he had already served 10 years in the state legislature. The son of U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones Sr., a Democrat who represented North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District for 26 years, Jones eventually dropped the “Jr.” in his name.

After the senior Jones died in 1992, Jones ran to fill his seat, but lost to Democrat Eva Clayton. In 1994, he switched parties to Republican and successfully ran for the seat he still holds. Over time, the sniggering about perceived opportunism and riding daddy’s coattails have died away, replaced by respect on both sides for Jones’ accessibility to his constituents, his backbone and his diligence.

Early in the Iraq war, Jones received national attention for his bill that proposed to change “French fries” to Freedom Fries” because of France’s lack of support. But later, Jones became an avowed opponent of the war when confronted with the suffering of the U.S. military and their families.

Much of Jones’ focus, he says, has been on advocating for the military personnel and a strong national defense. But he has also been critical of the cost of military conflicts and has questioned the constitutionality of sending troops into conflicts without Congressional approval.

“America needs an honest conversation about how much our overseas military engagements are costing, who’s going to pay for them and how,” Jones wrote in a September letter-to-the-editor. “For the past 12 years, the answer has been to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars from China, Russia and other foreign creditors and leave the tab for our children and grandchildren to pay off.”

Jones is not a flashy politician. He is untouched by scandal. He likes to drive himself around his huge 22-county district that stretches from Wilmington to the Virginia border. He makes a point of going home every weekend to his wife in Farmville. He speaks in a soft drawl and has a calm demeanor. He prefers to emphasize his beliefs and accomplishments in his campaigns, rather than tear down his opponent.

A self-described devout Catholic, Jones is opposed to abortion rights, gay marriage and gun control. He has voted against immigration reform, and has voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

On the flip side, Jones supports the minimum wage and favors tax relief for working families. He is concerned about excessive debt for future generations and retirement security for seniors.
Jones has also been an advocate for off-road-vehicle driving access in Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and has recently supported ORV access in Cape Lookout National Seashore.

He has also worked to lighten regulations on commercial fishermen and has helped secure protections for wild horses on the Shackelford Banks and the Currituck Outer Banks. Jones also has opposed the so-called long bridge over Oregon Inlet.

On regulatory reform
This year, Jones filed legislation that would reform the federal Endangered Species Act, the law that dictates management of animals in national parks and refuges. He has supported North Carolina’s opposition to federal catch shares in fisheries regulation and has worked to improve practices of NOAA fisheries enforcement. In 2012, he filed legislation that would have overturned a consent decree that regulated beach driving in Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

“Agencies who make regulations don’t seem to have balance in their positions. It seems like many times, agencies go a step further than they need to,” Jones said.

“I also know that citizens have a right to enjoy their coastal area. There has got to be the balance with protection and the rights of the taxpayers.“

On federal projects
Jones said that funding for expensive projects such as beach nourishment and inlet dredging will no doubt receive fewer federal dollars. He said he is encouraging partnerships between local, state and federal governments.

Jones said it makes sense to look for flexibility.

“We’re going to continue to have tight budgets,” he said.

As far as the state’s plan to study purchase of Oregon Inlet from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Jones said, “We’re going to see if that is a possibility.”

“Anytime you’re dealing with the federal government,” he added, “it’s a constant battle.”

On the federal budget and deficit
Jones has irked his Republican colleagues by voting against “No Child Left Behind” during the Bush years, which he referred to on his website as “a federal takeover of the education system.” He also voted against Bush’s Medicare expansion, his “pork-filled” highway bill, and “his Wall Street bank bail-out” known as TARP.

During the Obama administration, according to his website, Jones voted against Cap and Trade, Obamacare and “his trillion dollar ‘stimulus’ package.”

He also said he voted against every foreign aid spending bill, and is the only Republican House member to have voted against “every single increase” in the federal debt limit over the last eight years.

Jones is a proponent of the Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, and favors replacing the current IRS tax code with a low flat tax that is fairer to all citizens.

He said that the U.S. is more than $15 trillion in debt. Deficits are running more than $1 trillion a year under Obama, although he concedes that number has recently started getting lower.

“The debt of our nation is strangling us,” he said in the interview. “The deficit might be decreasing, but the debt is increasing. The debt is what we accumulate every month. When the revenue is not coming in is when we raise the debt ceiling.”

On Main Street versus Wall Street
Jones said that the economy still has a long way to go, especially for people such as those in rural areas of Eastern North Carolina.

“I think it’s still stagnant,” he said. “What the answer is, is to stop spending money and stop spending it overseas.”

Jones said a cooperative effort is needed to reduce taxes on corporations and small businesses or provide other tax incentives that can be put back into the local economy.

“I think what we need to do is to bring jobs back from overseas.”

Marshall Adame: A wealth of experience

By Russ Lay

Marshall Adame is the Democratic candidate attempting to unseat long-time incumbent Rep. Walter Jones in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District.

Adame retired from the U.S. Marines after serving for 23 years and has seen service from Vietnam to detachment commander in several U.S. embassies.

After retiring from the Marine Corps, Adame, who has called North Carolina his home for over three decades, has held positions as the Airport Director in Iraq and as a senior staff member of the Congressional Commission on Wartime Contracting.

He has held diplomatic credentials and worked with the U.S. State Department in Iraq.

Adame was the sixth child of an immigrant Mexican-American father and an Irish-American mother. He had 10 other siblings. He and his wife Becky have been married 43 years and they have 14 grandchildren.

Adame pointed to two major areas that markedly contrast him with Jones.

“I’ll take one recent vote Walter Jones made on the Veteran’s Bill. He voted against it. My whole understanding of America and how we relate to our warriors is this: If we sent them to war, we’re responsible for them when they come back, and if something is wrong, it is our job to make it right for them.”

Adame continued, “Jones’ reasoning was actually the worst reason that any congressman can give. He said it would ‘cost too much.’ You’re supposed to calculate those costs when you send our men and women to war, not afterwards.”

Adame also said he believes Jones “is not effectively representing our district.” Jones brags about shutting the government down over budget fights and is willing, Adame contends, “to let the U.S. government default on their debt. That could cause a worldwide economic calamity and that is a risk I am not willing to take.”

Sticking to an economic theme, we asked Adame if there would come a time when both political parties would need to face up to the growing national debt, and if “compromise” is the answer if one side believes the growing debt is simply too large.

“We need to start with the question, Can we work together at all, on anything?” Adame said.

“Right now, I don’t want to sound harsh, or cast aspersions on nameless folks who are out there, but in my personal view, I see some people in America, particularly in Washington, D.C., that seem to hate the president more than they love their country and they cannot see what is good for the country because they are so blinded by that hatred.

“That troubles me greatly and it is one of the reasons I am running.”

Adame offered a history lesson.

“The greatness of this country is itself a product of compromise. It was North Carolina, of all places, our home state, that sent representatives to the Continental Congress and told them, ‘That’s a nice constitution you have there, but we’re not signing it without a Bill of Rights.’

“Men of good intentions, but with differing views, in order to unite the colonies, compromised on what we now would call uncompromisable values. They compromised for the good of the whole country and that’s what we’re refusing to do today. Compromise for the good of the whole strengthens this country. It is what makes us who we are and what makes us special.”

“If we don’t get back to that, and very soon, if we stay with this polarizing ideology, we are destroying our country.”

Our next question focused on what we described as a “heavy-handed federal presence in our local economy” and whether he could do more than North Carolina’s current House and Senate legislators in mitigating some of that.

“One of the things a representative needs to remind his or herself of is that he doesn’t represent just the people who voted for him or her, but the entire district,” he said.

“This sounds radical, but once you get to Washington, you are no longer a Democrat of Republican. You might have been a Democrat when you were running, but now you have to represent everyone when you get to (Washington).

Adame continued to frame the question.

“Asking me if I am an environmentalist or in favor of economic expansion, that’s not a fair question. What a representative needs to do is to say, ‘My job is to balance the concerns of the environmentalists and economic expansion,’ so that both views are considered and you come to a resolution through reason.”

Turning to Oregon Inlet, he said: “Common sense says, when sand fills that hole up, you have to dredge it. Common sense also tells us you need to find the money to do that.

“When there is a disaster like a hurricane, federal disaster money comes quickly. However, when you have an asset that is deteriorating or eroding slowly, we treat it differently, even though the economic effect is the same. We need to treat Oregon Inlet as the same ‘economic emergency’ that occurs after a big storm.”

Adame said commercial fishing “is not just a huge economic generator, it is part of our culture, 200 years of culture handed down from generation to generation, and we need to protect that.

“But there is also a competing user of the resource, recreational fishing, that brings significant revenues to the state. We need to make sure both can continue to use the resource, that we grow both industries economically, and in a way that when we expand both, eastern North Carolina gets good jobs and does not become merely a supplier of cheap labor.”

The 3rd District is huge, and the military is a big part of it. Asked if he thought Congress had abdicated too much, if not all, responsibility to wage war to the executive branch, Adame was unequivocal.

“There is no question that Congress has abdicated its responsibilities to the president for political reasons and that should be troubling to all Americans,” he said.

“We have been reacting out of fear, acting out of fear, such that many of our decisions are based on fear.”

“As a U.S. congressman, I would do everything in my power to start dismantling the instrument which allowed this to occur, and that is the PATRIOT Act, and start removing from presidential authority some of the things that were given to the president by Congress.”

Adame said he was not objecting to how the act addresses internal threats or activities outside the country.

“I am talking about the parts that allow the president to authorize the continuation of war making and expand it under a law that is so ambiguous it allows the president to determine alone what his or her powers are in that regard.”

On the National Security Agency, he said: “We have a system of internal spying where every American is a ‘person of interest.’ We have secret courts exercising authority of secret laws . . . in secret! Nothing we were taught about our rights, our freedoms, and how a free society should look under the Constitution is in line with what the NSA does today to American citizens.”

Agriculture is also important to the district, so we asked Adame if he what changes he would seek.

“One of the reasons we have such a gigantic farm bill in this country is that the government is making decisions for farmers. Government uses a lot of numbers and ‘intellectual data’ to tell farmers how to do something farmers have known how to do for hundreds of years.”

Citing one example, Adame said a current law that requires farmers who have a pond on their land that they created and does not flow into any natural river or estuary “to treat that pond the same as if it were a flowing river, resulting in millions of dollars in unnecessary compliance costs.”

Adame also said under the current Congress, government money and incentives go “to large corporate farms that push the family farms out of business.”

Segueing from agriculture to Main Street, we asked the candidate: “Given that your district is comprised largely of counties where entrepreneurial employment far exceeds large corporate employers, what would you do to help Main Street instead of Wall Street?”

Adame responded: “Wall Street commerce produces nothing. It doesn’t produce a wheel or a widget or anything that says ‘Made in America.’ It’s betting on the global market, and we now have companies that have allegiance to no flag, no country, but they are extracting through that paper trade, American assets that lose jobs here.”

Adame also cited regulatory and paper trail burdens on small business.

“The first thing we need to do is revamp the tax code, but we all know that is pie-in-the-sky and unlikely to occur.”

Adame goes on, “Banking affects everybody and ironically, after the 2007 banking debacle of ‘too big to fail’ we now have even fewer banks and less competition, with fewer but larger banks that are still ‘too big to fail.’

Next, we asked: “Republicans often accuse Democrats of being ‘regulation happy’ when it comes to the private sector. How do you address that charge and what would you do to ease the regulatory burden on Main Street?”

“Guidance” on a national basis helped the country in areas such as cleaning up the air and water, he said, as the interstate highway system, which he felt was a bi-partisan undertaking that benefitted “the entire country.”

But over the years, he said, “one regulation had been piled on top of another, and with so many agencies, different government agencies have duplicative and overlapping jurisdiction that extracts too much compliance costs within the private sector.

“No business in Dare County should be required to fill out more than five government forms each year instead of 50 or more forms.”

On the description of Democrats as “tax and spend liberals, Adame argued:
“Go back in history and you will see spending has gone down under Democrat administrations, while under Republican administrations spending and debt has gone up.”

While working on behalf of Congress to investigate Iraqi war spending under George W. Bush, he said, “We were spending $2 billion a week in aid to Iraq while risking our blood and treasure while the Iraqis were banking $3 to $6 billion a week, and even more later, in oil revenues, and not one dime went to repay the U.S. war effort.”

He said more than 200,000 new vehicles and over 40,000 generators were left in Iraq as we withdrew, with many of them sold on the open market by Iraqis rather than being redeployed to Afghanistan or American communities, including Mercedes buses and $500,000 fire trucks.

Adame said he would like to serve on a number of committees, including Armed Services, Banking, Interior and Commerce, but his first choice would be Armed Services. He said he was concerned with waste and fraud in the Department of Defense and wanted to see money used to support the “muscle rather than the machine” at the Pentagon.

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