Jones has challenger
Published 1:00 am Saturday, August 20, 2011
In an interview Friday, Republican Frank Palombo of New Bern confirmed he is launching his campaign in the 3rd Congressional District represented by Jones, a Farmville resident.
Palombo is a retired chief of the New Bern Police Department.
He will make a formal announcement about his candidacy Aug. 24 at the New Bern Convention Center.
Palombo, 63, spent 34 years in law enforcement — 14 of them as New Bern’s police chief — before retiring in June.
This would be his first try for political office.
Palombo was asked why he wants to challenge Jones, who has served in Congress since 1995 and hasn’t had a serious primary challenger, at least not in recent years.
In fact, Jones trounced his competitors last year, garnering 71.86 percent of the vote in November’s general election.
Jones’ success doesn’t dissuade Palombo.
“It may be philosophical, it may not be, but the way I look at it is the Constitution allows every two years for House of Representatives offices to become open,” he said. “In my view, we’re not challenging the person that’s there. We’re saying we’re exercising our rights as citizens and putting our … points of view in front of the voters. We’re allowing the voters to make a decision.”
He offered assurances of sympathy with the tea party movement’s goals of smaller government and less taxes.
But Palombo declined to discuss the specifics of his platform.
He also didn’t want to say which fundraising sources he’d tap or how much campaign cash he hopes to raise.
“I think my fundraising strategy, I’m probably going to keep that a little close to the vest,” he said.
He’ll have a long way to go to catch up with Jones, whose campaign reported $135,279 in receipts through June 30, according to the Federal Election Commission’s website.
Most of this money, $87,490, came from individuals, while $47,500 of it was derived from political action committees such as the American Bankers Association PAC, which gave Jones $2,000, and the Boeing Company Political Action Committee, which contributed $1,000, the website shows.
Jones’ campaign committee brought in $672,357 and spent $577,215 in the 2009-2010 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.
Jones serves on the influential House armed services and financial services committees.
There’s no doubt Jones is a tough opponent, indicated Greg Dority, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party.
“This will be a very difficult race for Frank,” Dority said. “He will need to put together an organization and raise a lot of money.”
One problem for novice candidates is a lack of name recognition, he pointed out.
“Right now, Frank is virtually unknown in Beaufort County and most of the 3rd district,” Dority said.
Dority was echoed a little by Ann Cherry, secretary of the Beaufort County Democratic Party.
“Personally, I don’t think that Rep. Jones has anything to worry about,” Cherry said.
“He’s popular enough that a person who spent a great deal of time last election trying to build up a lot of support for his candidacy against Walter Jones didn’t do anything against him at all.”
Palombo still likes his chances.
“I think perhaps in old-school thinking there was the philosophy of working your way up,” he said, adding voters indicated they wanted a change in the 2010 elections.
“What they’re not looking for is career politicians,” he said.
A call to Jones’ Washington, D.C., office wasn’t returned Friday.
Palombo’s emailed biography shows he has a wife, Janine, and two sons who reside in Florida.