'Truth commission' Republican loses top consultants

After fighting off a tough primary opponent and a round of retirement rumors, Rep.

After fighting off a tough primary opponent and a round of retirement rumors, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) now faces another challenge for reelection. Jones—a rare Republican opponent of the Iraq war and the sole Republican co-sponsor of the House “Truth Commission” bill—is parting ways with his lead campaign strategists. Rotterdam & Co., a Raleigh-based firm that has done general consulting for Jones in all eight of his elections, has decided to refine the focus of their practice. “At this stage, our firm’s focus is on television,” said Marc Rotterdam, a partner at the company. “What Walter needs at this point is a fundraiser.” His last filing with the FEC shows Jones has raised only $9,302 this cycle and there has been speculation that he will retire at the end of this term. But he told conservative weekly Human Events earlier this week that he planned to run again. Jones, who began his political career as a Democrat, faced his first-ever tough primary battle last year. Those low fundraising numbers represent a conscious decision on the congressman’s part, according to Glen Downs, his chief of staff. “Presently, people are just more focused on the state of the economy,” Downs said. “Groups of supporters that are there for you—we hit them up in the primary, we hit them up in the general [election]. We decided to back off for now.” “We’re ramping up right now,” he added, pointing to some upcoming campaign events. “He’s running for reelection.” Nevertheless, Downs said, Jones now has no one doing his general consulting. Jones, who led the 2003 “freedom fries” movement in the House, changed his views on the war after attending a local Marine’s funeral. But his opposition to the war, which landed him on the cover of the liberal magazine Mother Jones, has been less popular in his largely white and conservative district, which went for Bush by a 36-point margin in 2004. Onslow County Commissioner Joe McLaughlin challenged Jones in last year’s Republican primary, losing by 18 points. But rumors are circulating that McLaughlin, who was short on funds, will try again in 2010—as might former state Republican chairman Ferrell Blount. Rotterdam, who worked on Reagan’s 1980 campaign, describes his firm as “very” Republican, but said Jones’ views on the war did not affect the decision. Downs, too, said the split was amicable. “They’re the best,” he said. “The nature of the relationship has changed, [but] there’s no bad blood at all.”

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