North Carolina GOP Congressman George Holding Heads for the Exit—Democrats Eye a “Blue” Pick Up January 12, 2020
And the House GOP rush for the Capitol Hill exits “just keeps on coming.” On 1/03/2020, 6th-term GOP Congressman Phil Roe ushered in 2020 by stating that he will retire at the end of the present 116th Congress. Roe currently represents Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District in that state’s northeastern corner. This region has been a GOP stronghold since 1878 and has a current “ultra-bright Red” Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of +28 (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac). Roe is among more than two dozen GOP House members who have already decided against running in 2020 (AP, 1/03/20). You don’t have to be a genius, “stable” or otherwise, to know that if House GOPers felt they could recapture that chamber in 2020, they would not be retiring in such high numbers. The open TN 1st CD seat will probably be won by another Republican. However, the NC 2nd CD constitutes a different situation. On 12/06/2019 incumbent GOP Congressman George Holding announced he would also not seek re-election in 2020. He said that “newly redrawn congressional districts were part of the reason” for his decision. Let’s look at Cong. Holding, his district, and Democratic chances to flip this House seat “Blue” in 2020.
Fourth-term GOP Congressman George Holding (51) currently represents NC’s 2nd Congressional District (CD). In a 2016 redistricting done by the Republican-dominated state legislature, the Tar Heel 2nd had an R+7 Cook Partisan Voting Index score. The GOP legislature made sure that this district would remain “Red” and help Cong. Holding, first elected in 2012, to comfortably keep his seat. In a gerrymander, only the southern and eastern part of the Raleigh metro area in Wake County was included in this district. This Wake County area was surrounded by the northern part of Johnston County, the southern part of Nash County, the far western part of Wilson County, and all of Franklin and Harnett Counties. The cities of Rocky Mount in Nash County, Smithfield in Johnston County, and Dunn in Harnett County were in the 2nd . This district included the affluent GOP suburbs and exurbs that surrounded Raleigh, such as Wake Forest and Holly Springs (Politico, Mutnick, A., 12/06/19, Cohen & Cook 2020 Almanac). Donald won the 2nd in 2016 with 52% of the vote. Since his first congressional election in 2012, which he won with 57% of the vote, Holding was re-elected in 2014 and 2016 with the same percentages. In 2018, a Democratic wave year, Holding won 51% of the vote and defeated his opponent by a 5% margin (Cook & Cohen 2020).
After much litigation, a panel of three state judges ruled on 12/02/2019 that it didn’t have time to address the Democrats’ challenges to all of the NC GOP state legislature’s redrawn 11/2019 congressional districts before the 3/03/2020 congressional primaries. Those maps had been redrawn in 2019 when the court had ruled that the 2016 redistricting had been an unlawful partisan gerrymander (roll.com, Campaigns, 12/02/2019). Under the newly drawn maps, however, the current NC GOP 10-3 congressional delegation is widely expected to produce an 8-5 GOP edge with the Democrats gaining at least 2 seats, one in the NC 2nd CD and one in the NC 6th CD (newsobserver.com, Murphy, 12/04/19). Five seats, now, including the 2nd are considered Safe Democratic seats (newsobserver.com, Murphy, crystalball. centerforpolitics.org., Sabato). In 2016, Hillary won the newly redistricted 2nd with 60.3% of the vote and the 6th CD with 59.4 % of the vote (newsobserver.com). The new 2nd will include all of Wake County only, including the city of Raleigh. Raleigh has 45% of Wake County’s population and is 29% African American. The previously drawn 2nd that Holding ran in only included a 19.3 % black population (Cohen & Cook 2020 Almanac).
Raleigh, NC native Holding is to “the manor born,” a top 1% millionaire quite comfortable in the GOP. He Is worth over $6.5 million (opensecrets.org). He is a member of the Holding family that founded the First Citizens Bank in Smithfield, NC and attended the prestigious Groton prep school among whose alumni were upper class Americans including FDR, and relatives of President Theodore Roosevelt. Holding received his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and a 1996 law degree from that school. He became interested in conservative ideas during his undergraduate and law school years and worked as a summer intern for ultra-reactionary NC GOP Senator Jesse Helms. After clerking for a federal judge and working at a law firm, he rejoined Sen. Helms as a legislative aide from 1999-2001. W Bush nominated Holding to be a U.S. Attorney. In that office, where he worked from 2002-2006, Holding prosecuted many local politicians, including former NC Democratic Gov. Mike Easley for campaign finance irregularities. His most famous case was that of former NC Dem. Senator John Edwards for the nearly $1million supporters paid his mistress during his 2008 presidential campaign. Holding resigned to run for Congress before the case was argued in court. In 6/2021, Edwards was acquitted on one count and the jury deadlocked on five of the other felony counts. The Justice Dept. dropped those charges (Cohen & Cook 2020 Almanac). Self-financing his campaign to the tune of $319,000 and outraising his primary opponent 6:1, Holding handily won his GOP primary and crushed his first Democratic opponent by 14 points (Cohen & Cook 2020).
Holding has ranked as one of the House’s most conservative members and during the course of his entire career has voted with his hard-right “Team Red” 94.3%-97% of the time. He has only opposed his fellow GOPers about 3%-5.7% of the time. He has voted with Demagogue Donald 91.9% of the time (projectsfivethirthyeighth.com, 11/03/19, projectspropublica.org, 2013-2020). Holding voted for Donald’s top 1% tax cut bill. During this time, his family continued to own the controlling share of their bank. Cong. Holding called the big reduction in the estate tax in that bill “a dream come true (Cohen & Cook, 2020).” He strongly opposes abortion and voted to ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy (projectsfivethiryeight.com, 11/03/19, politico.com, Haberkorn, 3/28/16). Holding is a staunch opponent of Obamacare and voted to repeal it in 5/2017 (Fain, WRAL, 10/24/18, charlotteobserver.com, Douglas, W. & Douglas A., McClatchy, 3/17/19).
Whichever Democrat runs for this open seat and, hopefully, wins it will have a completely different background and will far better represent the needs of the new NC 2nd . The most well-known among them is Deborah Ross. Ross is a former state representative and former director of the NC ACLU. Ross lost the 2016 race against incumbent GOP U.S. Senator Richard Burr by 6 points. However, her background is a good fit for the newly redistricted Tar Heel 2nd. Andrew Terrell, a former Obama administration trade official, who led a United Kingdom trade office in Raleigh, is also running in this race. Should he win it, he would be the first openly NC LGBT member of Congress. He strongly opposed the short-lived notorious anti-transgender “bathroom law,” House Bill 2. Even before the 2nd CD map was redrawn to make it Democratic friendly, Monica Johnson-Hostler, a member of the Wake County Board of Education, had filed to run. Johnson-Hostler is also director of the NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault. On the GOP side, Alan D. Swain of Raleigh filed on 12/12/2019 to run for the open 2nd CD seat. (newsobserver.com, Murphy, B., 12/12/19 & 12/04/19).
Whichever Democratic candidate wins the NC 2nd CD primary must be supported in the 11/03/2020 general elections. Yes, any of the 2nd CD Democratic candidates “look good” on paper. However, elections are never won on paper, by arm chair theorists, or by statisticians doing polls. They are won at the ballot box where Democrats must turn out in droves plus. As in 2016, NC will be a hotly contested state at the Presidential, Senatorial, and House levels. GOP freshman Senator Thom Tillis, who won in 2014 by just 2 percentage points is facing a stiff Democratic challenge in 2020. Defeating Tillis can help Democrats retake the Senate. In 2016, Demagogue Donald won NC by 4 percentage points. Why? In this heavily divided state with significant urban, suburban, and rural regions, Trump won by 173,000 votes because rural GOP areas in the eastern and mountainous western part of the state came out in “y uu ge” numbers while blacks and other Democratic base voters decreased their 2008 and 2012 turnouts. Yes, Hillary carried Wake, Durham, and Orange Counties, aka the Research Triangle. She boosted Democratic turnout in Charlotte and took Winston-Salem and Greensboro. However, her margins could not offset Donald’s overwhelming rural advantage. Such poor turnout must not happen again, if Democrats want to win NC at all levels. By voting “bigly” in the Tar Heel 2nd and in other NC areas, Democrats can increase their House margin, win a major Senate seat, and put NC with its 15 key presidential electoral votes in “Column Blue.” National Democratic victories start at the congressional level.