New campaign fundraising numbers give NC Democrats hope of flipping a US House seat

Rep. George Holding, a Republican from Raleigh, represents more than 700,000 North Carolinians in Congress in District 2. But in the last three months, only one of those residents has contributed to his 2020 reelection campaign, according to new campaign finance reports.

All 13 of North Carolina’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election in 2020. Most of those seats aren’t particularly competitive, but Holding’s is one of three that national Democrats have their set their sights on to flip.

And the latest campaign finance report has some Democrats feeling encouraged about Holding’s fundraising intake, which was lower last quarter than almost all of his GOP colleagues.

“After voting to strip away health care from North Carolina families and line the pockets of big drug companies, Congressman Holding’s lousy fundraising report proves that his biggest supporters are the wealthy D.C. special interests and not actual North Carolinians,” said Avery Jaffe, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in an email. The DCCC is a national group that supports Democrats in U.S. House races.

Holding said he hasn’t been focused on local fundraising because he believes a lawsuit against the state’s congressional lines will be successful, forcing the state to redraw the congressional districts.

“I feel fairly certain we will have new districts to be running in,” Holding told The News & Observer Tuesday in an interview in Washington.

The financial quarter in question lasted from July 1 to Sept. 30, and the lawsuit was not filed until Sept. 27. But Holding said he suspected in June, after Republicans won a different lawsuit challenging the same districts at the U.S. Supreme Court, that a similar lawsuit would eventually be filed in state courts.

The same panel of judges that’s hearing the new congressional gerrymandering lawsuit ruled in September, in yet another case, that the state’s legislative lines are unconstitutional.

“It’s pretty clear the state courts are going to rule the same way they ruled with the legislative districts,” Holding said.

District 2 currently encompasses the Wake County suburbs, as well as more rural areas in Harnett, Johnston, Wilson, Nash and Franklin counties.

At least three Democrats are seeking to run against Holding next year: retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Scott Cooper; Monika Johnson-Hostler, a Wake County school board member; and Jason Bustler, pastor of the LGBT-friendly Open Table United Methodist Church in Raleigh.

Holding maintains a sizable advantage over his competitors in fundraising, thanks in large part to his support from PACs. He ended September with $420,000, or nearly twice as much campaign cash as Cooper raised: $217,000.

Johnson-Hostler raised $48,000 last quarter and entered October with $28,000 on hand. Butler raised $18,000 and entered October with $4,600.

Indvidual donors vs. PACs

Cooper is seizing on the latest campaign finance reports in his fundraising pitch. After the reports were filed, Cooper’s campaign sent supporters an email with the subject line “Grassroots support can beat dark-money donors!” and asked for more donations. The email claimed the candidates are “neck and neck,” even though “no one thought we could compete with Congressman Holding with his corporate PAC and dark-money donors.”

Holding raised $175,000 in the last three months. About 5 percent, or $9,200, of that came from individual people. Cooper raised $155,000, about 98% of which came from individual people.

A further analysis of the campaign finance reports show Cooper received at least 100 donations from North Carolina residents in the last quarter. Holding received money from two North Carolinians, including one donor inside his district, who gave him $75.

Alex Vuscovik, Cooper’s campaign manager, said Cooper is joining the growing Democratic trend of avoiding corporate PAC money. While Holding raised more than $148,000 from PACs last quarter, the only PAC money Cooper received was $2,500 from a non-corporate PAC, VoteVets.

“If we were taking corporate PAC money, then we’d probably be beating Holding,” Vuscovik said of the latest fundraising numbers.

Other NC incumbents

Holding’s $175,000 last quarter was less than all but one fellow North Carolina Republican incumbent. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro raised just over $100,000.

The rest of the state’s incumbent Republicans — not counting Reps. Greg Murphy and Dan Bishop, who just won special elections last month to vacant seats — raised between $228,000 and $417,000.

They also raised more money from individual donors than Holding’s $9,200, ranging from $61,000 for Walker up to $321,000 for Rep. Mark Meadows of Asheville. Only one Republican in North Carolina, Patrick McHenry, received more PAC money than Holding in the last quarter.

The state’s three Democrats, meanwhile, all had worse third-quarter fundraising results than Holding.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield raised $98,000. Rep. David Price raised $110,000, and Rep. Alma Adams raised $132,000.

However, unlike Holding, who won with 51.3% of the vote in 2018, all of them will likely have an easy path to re-election in 2020. All three won their respective elections in 2018 with about 70% of the vote.

Brian Murphy of McClatchy DC contributed to this report.

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Will Doran reports on North Carolina politics, with a focus on state employees and agencies. In 2016 he started The News & Observer’s fact-checking partnership, PolitiFact NC, and before that he reported on local governments around the Triangle. Contact him at wdoran@newsobserver.com or (919) 836-2858.