HAMPSTEAD, NC (WWAY) -- When voters in Pender County and parts of New Hanover County go to the polls, they may be surprised by who they're voting for for Congress. The area is now part of the 3rd Congressional District, but incumbent Rep. Walter Jones has spent little time in his new territory.
Jones has held his seat for 18 years, but challenger Frank Palombo, the former police chief in New Bern, says it's time for a change. He's been all over the redrawn 3rd District, while Jones has been a lot less visible.
"In order for the people to make a good choice, and it's so important that you make a good choice for the person that's going to represent you in Washington, DC, you have to be able to talk to the candidates," candidate Frank Palombo said. "The candidates owe you the opportunity to stand side-by-side, say what they want to say and then answer your questions."
Palombo is running against nine-term Congressman Jones for a seat in the US House of Representatives.
Lawmakers redrew the district's lines to include Pender and part of New Hanover County, but besides a trip to Burgaw, Jones has not been very visible in our end of the district, while Palombo has.
Jones said Palombo does not have the responsibility of being in Washington.
"He's retired. He's got plenty of time," Rep. Jones said during a phone interview from his district office in Greenville. "I'm working for the people. I can't get around and about as much as I want to because I've got to be in Washington from Monday through Friday."
"I'm sorry, but I don't buy the 'I don't have time,'" Palombo said during a stop in Hampstead. "Nothing's more important than what's going on in this country right now, and the people need to see the reality of their representatives and the people that want to represent them."
Jones said time is an issue, but his Congressional colleague Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-7th District) of Lumberton has made numerous trips to our area, including the last several days.
"I'm excited about having Wilmington in the 3rd District, and I just hope that the people will elect me to another term and I get a chance to serve the people of Pender and New Hanover County," Jones said.
Jones said if he wins the primary, he will spend time campaigning in our area for the general election. In the meantime, he said voters should expect a mailer from his campaign.