Rouse targeting incumbent Jones

Published 3:40 pm Sunday, January 10, 2010

Staff Writer

A Winterville Democrat wants to unseat U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., R-N.C., and he’s already launching his campaign in the hope of reaching that goal.
Johnny Rouse, former chairman of the Pitt County Democratic Party, recently announced that he’s seeking his party’s nomination in the 3rd Congressional District.
“I’m just concerned about the direction that the district and our region, eastern North Carolina, is taking,” he told the Daily News recently.
According to a news release from his campaign, Rouse is an Air Force veteran and a graduate of East Carolina University.
A licensed Realtor who maintains a small business on the side, Rouse said he is employed full-time in patient services at the Brody School of Medicine in Greenville.
The Kinston native said his Air Force travels gave him some basis for comparison between his home area and other regions of the country.
“The development that I saw was awing, in many ways,” he said of those travels.
Rouse said, that upon returning home, he was puzzled as to why this part of the state hadn’t developed as it should have.
“I look at the representation that we have in the House of Representatives, and I’m concerned that there’s more focus placed on national politics by the representative (Jones) than there is on issues in our district,” he said.
The Jones camp doesn’t comment on rival candidacies until after the filing period is closed “because you don’t know who all will be filing as a Republican, who’s going to be filing as a Democrat,” said Glen Downs, the congressman’s chief of staff.
Jones normally doesn’t focus on his opponents, opting to spotlight his record “and rise and fall on that,” Downs continued.
“I think after almost anybody has been in public office for a very long period of time, you end — and it’s almost a good cliché, but it’s really true — but good government kind of becomes good politics,” he said.
Jones has his own ideological positions, obviously, “But if you are providing good constituent service, there’s nothing political about it per se,” Downs added.
According to his online biography and, Jones took his seat in Congress in 1995, following a decade-long stint in the N.C. House of Representatives.
A former Democrat, Jones switched party affiliation after a failed bid to obtain the Democratic nomination to run for the old congressional seat held by his father, Walter B. Jones Sr.
Since being elected to Congress, “He has never faced a serious or well-funded opponent,” his SourceWatch profile reads.
In 2008, Jones easily defeated challenger Craig Weber, a former TV weatherman.
Jones scored 201,686 votes to Weber’s 104,364, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections’ Web site.
According to, Jones’ campaign committee has raised $225,332. During the period, he spent $130,122, and was left with $127,766 on hand. The report was last updated on Sept. 30, 2009.
Rouse declined to say how much money he would have to raise in order to wage an effective fight against the entrenched incumbent.
“That’s something that I’d rather refer to my budgeting people,” he said. “Right now, I’ve got to focus on winning the primary. I may have competition.”
He added that, to the best of his knowledge, no other Democrat had announced his or her desire to best Jones in the 3rd Congressional District, adding, “But I know there’s interest.”
Rouse did say that Jones’ previous political sparring partners might have been well-financed.
“They’ve struggled in getting that translated into a vote. I’d say my ultimate goal is to make it about the district, about the people,” Rouse said.
Rouse’s news release pokes fun of Jones for his now-infamous drive to rename French fries “freedom fries,” a swipe at France’s stand against the Iraq war.
“Frankly, our representative hasn’t done much, other than renaming French Fries in the Congressional cafeteria,” the release quotes Rouse as saying.
Jones and his GOP colleagues also targeted French toast, reads a article dated March 12, 2003.
It’s been widely reported that Jones backtracked from the “freedom fries” incident, going so far as to express regret over the fast-food dustup.
Asked how he can appeal to voters in Jones’ conservative district, Rouse said he avoids labels, but indicated he identifies with conservative Democrats.
“The bottom line is that, at the end of the day, the least I hope to accomplish in my campaign is to try to hold the focus on what the people of the 3rd District are focused on,” he said