Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) won a hotly contested Republican primary Tuesday, defeating former Bush administration official Taylor Griffin in a closely watched campaign.

With 71 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Jones, who led Griffin 53 percent to 44 percent. ​

First elected in the 1994 Republican wave election, Jones, 71, is an anti-war Republican who has often bucked his party over the years. He represents a coastal district which includes the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Griffin, 38, is a former Bush administration official who had the support of Sarah Palin, even though the race did not fall squarely along the tea party versus establishment lines that define many other Republicans primaries.

The 3rd district is near-certain to stay in Republican hands. Mitt Romney won nearly six out of 10 votes there in the 2012 presidential election.

In another closely watched House primary in the Tar Heel State, GOP establishment choice David Rouzer cruised to victory in the 7th district. He is the strong front-runner to replace Rep. Mike McIntyre (D), who is retiring in a strongly conservative district.