Jessica Jones


Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.

Ways to Connect

Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards, left, stumps for Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, right.
Jessica Jone / WUNC

With only eight days left to go before Election Day, the race for North Carolina’s U.S. Senate seat is in high gear. Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan is in a tight race with Republican state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. Both campaigns are pulling out all the stops to get people to the polls- including bringing national political stars to town.


U.S. Senator Kay Hagan has called for a temporary ban on travel from countries in Africa affected by Ebola.

The Hagan campaign released the senator's statement Friday afternoon. In it Hagan calls for a temporary travel ban on non-U.S. citizens from the affected countries in West Africa, and she calls on the President to take that step immediately.

Beth Wood
NC Auditor's Office

The state auditor's office is preparing detailed audits of six state government agencies in order to comply with a request from state lawmakers. Earlier this week, lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee asked for the audits. The request will provide specific line item details on how state funds are actually spent, says State Auditor Beth Wood.

3rd senatorial debate
Jim Morrill / Charlotte Observer via Twitter

Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis held their third and final debate in Wilmington last night.

Much of their rhetoric was familiar from their campaign ads and talking points from the first two debates. But this time they were joined by a third candidate,  Libertarian Sean Haugh, who added a fresh perspective to the format. 

Liz Bowles / UNC-TV via Twitter

Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and her challenger, state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis faced off in their second debate Tuesday night. The questions ranged from what to do about the violent Islamic State group to both candidates’ records in Washington and Raleigh. Hagan and Tillis’ exchange was noticeably sharper than it was in the first debate.

U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers, Clay Aiken
Jessica Jones

Republican U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers of the Second Congressional District and her challenger, Democrat Clay Aiken, held their first and only debate in Pinehurst Tuesday. The hour-long event covered topics ranging from Islamic State militants to the Affordable Care Act, and it was contentious.

U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers, Clay Aiken
Jessica Jones

Republican U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers and her challenger, Democrat Clay Aiken faced off at an hour-long debate Monday in Pinehurst. They discussed a number of topics, ranging from ISIS to the Affordable Care Act to immigration. Ellmers referred to Aiken several times as an "entertainer," and did her best to connect her opponent to President Obama.

"There's a clear choice here," said Ellmers. "Myself, who believes in conservative principles, or my opponent, who would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama on so many issues."

Republican U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers will face her challenger, Democrat Clay Aiken in a debate today at Pinehurst.

The event will take place before a live audience at a North Carolina Bankers Association conference today. Ellmers is generally acknowledged to be leading the race in the second district. State legislators redrew it in 2011 to favor Republicans.

Thom Tillis, Senator Rand Paul
Jessica Jones

Wednesday morning, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was in Raleigh to support Republican state Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, in his race for the U.S. Senate. Tillis is running against the incumbent, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, and the race is close. Republicans hope that Paul’s appearance will give Tillis a boost.

Big Ed’s restaurant in Raleigh was packed with diners and Tillis supporters long before the two men slipped in through a side door to work an appreciative crowd.

Bryan Series

President Clinton is scheduled to be in town today to stump for the Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan. She's running in a close race against her challenger, Republican state Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis.

President Clinton will appear at a private lunch held at the Carolina Inn. The Hagan campaign wouldn't give more details on who exactly will attend, but the guests are presumably big donors to the Hagan campaign.

Nicole Gottier / Flickr/Creative Commons

The race between Democratic Senator Kay Hagan and her challenger, Republican state Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, is one of the most closely watched in the country. That’s because Republicans need to win only six seats in the U.S. Senate to gain a majority.

The most recent polls put Hagan slightly ahead. Groups rooting for Hagan are trying to get more women to the polls this year.

The state Board of Elections has received thousands of calls about incorrect voter registration information sent out by the state chapter of Americans For Prosperity, a national conservative group.

Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of the state's Second Congressional District and her challenger, Democrat Clay Aiken, appeared in a candidates forum in Cary this morning.

The brief breakfast forum, hosted by the Cary Chamber of Commerce, marked the first time Ellmers and Aiken had ever met. Ellmers said she came away with a good impression of her opponent.

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos
Jessica Jones

North Carolina's Secretary of Health and Human Services spoke before a legislative committee Wednesday to explain organizational changes made in one of her divisions.

Secretary Aldona Wos explained the changes will help streamline the Division of Medical Assistance, which administers the state's Medicaid program. She also told legislators that a formerly enormous backlog in the IT system used to process Medicaid applications- called NC FAST- has been reduced by 81 percent. The Secretary says she expects the system to be caught up by the end of October.

Chris Christie [File Photo 10/2013]
Steve Fallon / Creative Commons

New Jersey governor Chris Christie was in Wilmington Tuesday Sept. 16 stumping for Republican state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. He's running against Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Hagan.

The two spoke before supporters at a restaurant, where Christie told the crowd that he takes his role as chairman of the Republican Governors' Association very seriously:

Vote Graffiti
Kodak Views / Flickr/Creative Commons

A poll released by Elon University gives Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan a four-point lead over her Republican challenger, state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis.

Hagan has support from 45 percent of residents who are likely to vote, while Tillis has 41 percent. According to the poll, 9 percent of voters say they support someone else, and 5 percent are undecided.

Professor Kenneth Fernandez is the director of the Elon University Poll.

Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis shake hands after the debate at UNC-TV Wednesday night.
Mike Oniffrey / UNC-TV

Democratic Senator Kay Hagan and Republican state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis held their first televised debate Wednesday night. The race is one of a handful of closely watched contests across the country that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.

The debate was a fast-paced hour of topics that ran the gamut from health care to foreign policy.

A picture of an 'I Voted' sticker.
Vox Efx / Flickr

This evening, Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House Thom Tillis will square off in their first debate of the campaign season.

The much-anticipated first debate between Senator Hagan and Speaker Tillis will be broadcast on WUNC-FM and on television outlets across the state. It begins at 7:00 p.m.

Federal Building, Winston-Salem
Jessica Jones

The U.S. Department of Justice has accused Sheriff Johnson of racially profiling and illegally detaining members of the Hispanic community. Yesterday attorneys for the federal government called John Lamberth, a social psychologist, to the stand. He's an expert on racial profiling.

Lamberth conducted a study using data from 2008 to 2013 showing that Hispanics in Alamance County were seven times more likely to be given tickets than other people.

Alamance County Sheriff's vehicle
Alamance County Sheriff's Office

Today is the second day of the federal trial for Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. Several current and former sheriff's deputies took the stand yesterday.

The U.S. Justice Department has accused Johnson of racial profiling and arresting and detaining members of the Hispanic community without probable cause.

Several past and present law enforcement officials testified on the opening day of the trial yesterday. It was held in federal district court in Winston-Salem.

Alamance County Sheriff's vehicle
Alamance County Sheriff's Office

A federal case against the Alamance county sheriff accused of illegally targeting Latino drivers is going to trial today.

The U.S. Justice Department has accused Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson of illegally targeting Latino drivers as well as arresting and detaining people without probable cause.

North Carolina House Chamber
Jessica Jones

Lawmakers in the state House have tentatively passed a 21 billion dollar budget adjustment for this fiscal year. It would give teachers average 7 percent raises at a cost of 282 million dollars. Republicans say the spending plan is sustainable. But Democrats in the House are asking whether the combination of pay raises and this year’s lower tax rates will be sustainable over the long term. 

Leaders in the House began debating the budget conference report at 10 a.m. today. Appropriations Chair Nelson Dollar began by presenting what the bill stands for.

Southern Appalachian Brook Trout
creative commons

State lawmakers in both chambers have approved a measure that would weaken environmental rules protecting rivers and streams in North Carolina.

Among other things, Senate Bill 883 would reduce the ratio of land that has to be mitigated when developers and others damage the banks of those waterways. That kind of damage is a major contributor to poor water quality.

Jane Blackburn and Lyn McCoy speak at an ACLU news conference.
Carol Jackson

ACLU attorneys challenging the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina plan to ask a U.S. District Court judge in Greensboro for swift resolution of the issue. This comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit struck down Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on Monday. Since that court has jurisdiction over North Carolina, supporters of same-sex marriage here say it’s only a matter of time before this state’s ban crumbles as well.

Photo: The North Carolina General Assembly's Legislative Building
Jorge Valencia

Leaders of the state House and Senate have agreed on a framework for a budget for the fiscal year that has already started. They're expected to spell out the details this week.

Late Saturday afternoon, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger both tweeted that their chambers had agreed upon a budget framework. They said they'd release more details this week.

The spending plan is expected to include teacher raises of about 7 percent and save teacher assistants' jobs.