The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Thursday, September 1, 1994            TAG: 9409010574
DATELINE: ELIZABETH CITY                     LENGTH: Medium:   85 lines


Republican 3rd District congressional candidate Walter B. Jones Jr. went on the offensive verbally and in print Wednesday, attacking incumbent Rep. Martin Lancaster's vote in favor of the administration-backed crime bill.

``I, Walter Jones, promise the voters of eastern North Carolina and the 3rd District I will not flip-flop,'' he said, with his right hand raised to the heavens.

Jones, accompanied by Republican Sen. Jesse A. Helms on a campaign swing through Pitt and Pasquotank counties, was responding to a question from Helms who asked, ``Would you make a guarantee right now that you will never flip-flop on an issue?''

The Jones campaign also issued a three-page press release, blasting Lancaster's voting switch on the crime bill.

``By flip-flopping on the crime bill, Martin Lancaster continues to make it clear that he does not care whether his votes in Congress represent the Third District or not,'' the release said.

At a brief press conference at the Elizabeth City Municipal Airport, Jones said the Lancaster vote on the crime bill had had a major impact on the 3rd District race.

``Our latest polls showed us in a neck-to-neck race with Martin Lancaster,'' said Jones, a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives and the son of the late North Carolina Congressman Walter B. Jones Sr. ``That was before the flip-flop on the crime bill. The vote on the crime bill helped us.''

Lancaster could not be reached for comment Wednesday night, but last week he said that the vote for the bill would not destroy him politically.

``Any time you vote on a package that people don't like, you're likely to lose votes because of it,'' Lancaster told the Associated Press. ``But I think that crime is a bigger issue than assault weapons.''

Jones touched on what he said was President Clinton's approval rating in the 3rd District - 29 percent - compared with Helms' 62 percent approval rating.

Helms, who spoke in Camden County on Wednesday night on Jones' behalf, maintained that he did not come to the 3rd District to attack Lancaster. However, he pointed to a recent ranking of members of Congress by a national taxpayers' rights group.

``I didn't come down here to bang around the incumbent congressman. He's a nice guy. He graded D - as in dog or Dagwood - by the American Taxpayers' Union,'' Helms said. ``He'a about the lowest in the North Carolina delegation.''

Helms, 72, made a veiled reference to Lancaster's crime bill vote.

``I think the people in this district deserve a congressman who will follow through on his commitments,'' said Helms. ``Be as good as his words, and vote against more federal spending, and certainly vote against more federal taxes on the American people. We don't need any more taxes. We need to cut federal spending.''

Helms praised Jones as a ``moral, spiritual man'' and said the outcome of the 1994 elections could ``make or break'' the country.

Conservative Democrats who made up the core of Walter Jones Sr.'s political base over his 26-year congressional career will decide the 3rd District race. Jones said conservative Democrats are embracing his campaign. He pointed to a GOP rally in traditionally Democratic Martin County.

``Last night in Williamston at the GOP Meet the Candidates dinner we had over 200 people in attendance, and half the people there were on the books as Democrats,'' Jones said. ``They would come up to me and say, `We're ready to take this nation back. We're ready to do what we can to help you win this election.' ''

Jones added, ``This is our nation. God gave it to us, and we're going to take it back.''

Turning to economic issues, Jones sought to portray the Democratic Party as the party of tax and spend.

Helms, who rarely makes political appearances on behalf of other candidates, said his appearance on Jones' behalf was not an extension of the bitter 1984 Senate race with North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., as some have said. Hunt has publicly expressed his support for Lancaster in a direct mail effort.

``I've got no feud with Gov. Hunt,'' said Helms. ``I don't know who speculated that. We belong to different parties, but I believe that if you were to ask him, he would second the motion. He and I are working very closely together on matters that affect the state of North Carolina.''

Jones and Helms were scheduled to appear Wednesday night at a $100 per person fund-raiser at the home of Elizabeth City physician Jerome Goldschmidt, and later at a $20 per person event at the Shrine Club in Camden County. by CNB