Holding will seek 13th District seat

GOP field could be crowded

Staff WriterJuly 14, 2011 

— Former U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding, who made his reputation pursuing high-profile Democrats in public corruption cases, announced Wednesday that he plans to run for Congress next year.

Holding, 43, a Republican, said he will run for the 13th District House seat now held by Democrat Brad Miller.

"I'm committed to run for Congress," Holding said. "Our nation faces its greatest problems ever, and the only way to solve them is to stop sending politicians to Washington and start sending public servants to Washington."

Holding is likely to face a crowded field for the Republican nomination. The GOP-controlled legislature is considering a redistricting plan that would reshape the district that stretches from Raleigh up along the Virginia border to Surry County, changing its leanings from Democratic to Republican.

Paul Coble, the chairman of the Wake County commissioners and a former Raleigh mayor, said he was giving "serious consideration" to running for the seat.

Two Republicans have already announced their intention to run - Forsyth County GOP Chairman Nathan Tabor and former Winston-Salem City Council member Vernon Robinson.

District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., the son of the state Senate majority leader, is also considering running.

District's new leanings

The crowded Republican field reflects the proposed dramatic shift in the district. The GOP winner could potentially hold the seat for a long time - or at least until the next redistricting.

"This is Republican friendly turf," said John Davis, editor of the John Davis Report, a Raleigh-based political news letter. "Odds are that Republicans will keep it for the entire decade."

None of the announced Republican candidates have the visibility of Holding, who recently stepped down after five years as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.

Holding's office led the prosecution or investigation of former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, among others.

A group of Republicans this week sent out a mailing urging recipients to sign a "pledge of support" to encourage Holding to run.

Among those signing the letter were Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, former House Majority Leader Leo Daughtry, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr., and Raleigh businessman Cliff Benson Jr.

A wealthy family

A former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms, Holding is a millionaire who could help finance his campaign. His family owns First Citizens Bank. His father and grandfather were both chairmen.

But he lives just outside the boundaries of the 13th District. Holding estimated the distance at about 1,000 feet.

He may also open himself up to critics, who charge that he was pursuing big-name Democrats to further his political career.

Absolutely not, Holding replied. "Everything I did as U.S. attorney was in interests of justice," Holding said. "It was great preparation to continue that public service."

He said he admired former federal prosecutors who have entered elective politics, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

"I will give honest answers and an honest assessment of the problems," Holding said.

State Democratic Chairman David Parker, who is also a former prosecutor, said he saw no conflict in Holding running for Congress.

But he added: "I think the congressman we've got is as good as we are going to find."

Getting help

Holding said he would rely on veteran Republican strategist Carter Wrenn, a longtime adviser to Helms and others, to run his campaign. He would also rely on his brother, Robert Holding, another Helms veteran.

Coble has his own Helms ties; he is the late conservative's nephew.

"I'm seeing what opportunities are laying out there," Coble said. "That is the due diligence you go through when you look at something."

Coble, who has an insurance agency, served one term as mayor from 1999 to 2001 and has been on the Wake County Board of Commissioners since 2006. He was elected chairman this year.

Coble said he hoped to make up his mind about the race fairly soon.

Staff writer J. Andrew Curliss contributed to this report.

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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