Holding may seek attorney general's office

Prosecutor has roots, visibility

Staff WriterJune 11, 2011 

George E.B. Holding, the top federal prosecutor in Raleigh since 2006, resigned the post Friday and acknowledged he will consider his first political campaign next year to become North Carolina's attorney general.

Holding's resignation as U.S. attorney in Raleigh will be effective July 8.

Holding's departure was not a surprise following the indictment last week of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards on campaign finance violations. Edwards has said he will plead not guilty.

In an interview, Holding said that he would consider all options for his next job, including a challenge to Democrat Roy Cooper, who has been North Carolina's attorney general since winning election in 2000.

Holding, 43, is a Republican with more name recognition than the most recent Republican challengers to Cooper: Joe Knott in 2004 and Bob Crumley in 2008.

Holding previously worked for the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. And he is wealthy: Holding's family owns First Citizens Bank; his father and grandfather were both chairmen.

Holding, who lives in Raleigh, has not run for a public office before.

Asked if he would challenge Cooper, Holding said, "I will say that serving the people of North Carolina has been a tremendous honor. Whatever I do next will have an element of public service."

He later added: "I haven't made any decisions. And when I say public service, that doesn't necessarily mean public office."

Morgan Jackson, a political consultant to Cooper, said immediately that Cooper intends to seek re-election and will be gearing up for a campaign beginning later this year. Voters will select an attorney general on the 2012 ballot.

The official announcement of Holding's resignation from the Justice Department highlighted a range of efforts Holding helped lead as a prosecutor, including combating terrorism, gun crimes, drugs and fraud.

But he is perhaps best known for his involvement in bringing public corruption cases, helping to win convictions against former House Speaker Jim Black, former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, former Congressman Frank Ballance and others.

"Our prosecutions have disrupted the culture of self-dealing and corruption that has existed in some circles among those who wield political power in Raleigh," Holding said in a statement.

Holding was appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina under former President George W. Bush in June 2006. Holding was the second-in-command from 2002 to 2006.

Thomas Walker, a former federal prosecutor who is now with the Alston & Bird law firm in Charlotte, is in line for the post, which oversees all federal prosecutions in the eastern third of North Carolina from Raleigh to the coast.

acurliss@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4840

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