Politics & Government

Political ads, already? A GOP incumbent is on the air with an idea to drain the swamp.

Rep. George Holding’s pro term limits ad

Rep. George Holding, a Raleigh Republican in Congress, is running campaign ads in June 2018 to highlight his support for congressional term limits. He faces Linda Coleman in the November election for the 2nd District.
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Rep. George Holding, a Raleigh Republican in Congress, is running campaign ads in June 2018 to highlight his support for congressional term limits. He faces Linda Coleman in the November election for the 2nd District.

Summer is a time for cookouts and baseball, pool parties and beach trips.

And political ads?

Rep. George Holding, a Raleigh Republican seeking his fourth term in Congress, will begin airing television, radio and internet ads Friday and continue throughout June.

He will face Democratic challenger Linda Coleman in November's election to represent the 2nd District, which includes parts or all of Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Nash, Wake and Wilson counties.

The ads will highlight his support for congressional term limits.

"It's a great time to run ads because nobody else is running ads," Holding said. "You get to October or whatever and everybody is running ads."

U.S. Rep. George Holding talks with supporters after being declared the winner in the 2nd District primary election on June 7, 2016 at the Hibernian Pub in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Holding said term limits are an issue that "I've always heard a lot about from my constituents." President Donald Trump tweeted about term limits in late April, starting another round of talk about a oft-mentioned issue that never seems to gain much traction in Congress.

"I recently had a terrific meeting with a bipartisan group of freshman lawmakers who feel very strongly in favor of Congressional term limits. I gave them my full support and endorsement for their efforts. ," Trump tweeted in late April.

Holding's ad says: "Washington politics is one mess after another. Term limits would help. George Holding agrees. He says yes to term limits."

The Constitution's 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1957, limits a president to two terms. But the Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that state-imposed term limits on members of Congress were unconstitutional.

Holding said he recently signed on as a co-sponsor of the Thomas Jefferson Public Service Act of 2018, a House bill designed to get around the constitutional restrictions on congressional term limits. The bill would cut the pay of any member of Congress serving more than 12 consecutive years to $1 and stop counting service for their pension.

The proposal would seem to favor wealthy members of Congress, but freshman Rep. Francis Rooney, a Florida Republican, said that voters would punish anyone trying to remain in Congress longer than the 12 year limit (six consecutive House terms or two consecutive Senate terms).

"The culture of limiting service would become so powerful ... that anybody that tried to disrupt that culture would be soundly defeated," he said.

Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from Western North Carolina, is also a co-sponsor of Rooney's bill, which was introduced in April.

Linda Coleman, then a candidate for lieutenant governor, concedes her race to Dan Forest in the ballroom at the Raleigh Marriott City Center on November 9, 2016. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Coleman, a former Wake County commissioner and state lawmaker, said she sees advantages and disadvantages to term limits. The ad says that she does not support term limits.

Coleman questions why term limits are being raised as a campaign issue.

"I haven’t heard anything about term limits in quite some time. I don't think term limits are something that the people I talk to on a regular basis, on a daily basis, are interested in," she said. "They are more interested in issues and what elected officials can do to resolve the issues around their daily life concerns, such as health care, jobs and education, the kind of things that really matter in their lives."

Term limits are popular among voters. An October 2016 Rasmussen poll found 74 percent of likely voters favored term limits for Congress, while just 13 percent opposed them.

Holding said the passage of Republicans' tax reform bill last year gives him hope that Congress could tackle term limits.

"They said we couldn’t pass tax reform. 'Oh, tax reform takes forever to do.' And we did it and they’ve said, 'Oh, you’ll never be able to pass term limits.' Let’s try to do it," Holding said.

Despite limited opposition in the Republican primary, Holding aired ads in March, April and early May on his support for welfare reform, dubbed "workfare."

Holding can afford to hit the airwaves early. He has raised more than $1.5 million for his re-election bid and had more than $283,000 on hand at the end of March, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Coleman raised about $141,000 and had just under $63,000 cash on hand at the end of March. She received a $56,000 donation from Swing Left, a coalition of progressive grassroots groups, in mid-May.

"People aren’t paying attention during the summer months. Folks are on vacation, at the beach. They're outdoors, not watching TV, and your mind is not really on politics," Coleman said. "People want to take a break from politics. They know it will be front and center in just a couple months or so. They want a break."

But Carter Wrenn, a veteran North Carolina political consultant who is working on the Holding campaign, said he disagrees with conventional wisdom about when campaigns truly get underway.

"I've never really agreed with that line of thinking. The theory that politics starts on Labor Day has never been correct. I didn’t think that was right 20 years ago," Wrenn said. "The more you talk to the people that are going to vote in the election, the better and the earlier you start, the better."

Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC