Under the Dome

Holding ‘needs to be challenged,’ says Iraq war veteran running in GOP primary

Allen Chesser
Allen Chesser Provided by Allen Chesser

Democratic challengers and activists have criticized Rep. George Holding throughout his tenure for not holding town halls, accusing him of not being visible in the district.

Now a fellow Republican is making the same claim about the second-term congressman.

“I think Holding needs to be challenged. He’s not representing the people anymore. He ignores constituents. He ignores requests for meetings. He ignores phone calls,” said Allen Chesser, a 32-year-old Iraq war veteran from Louisburg. “He’s kind of disassociated himself with the district.”

Chesser – who has been active with the Franklin County GOP for several years – works at BB&T, is completing his degree at N.C. Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount and is the father of four young children.

He just added candidate to his list of titles, filing on Sept. 23 to challenge Holding in the 2nd District, which includes parts or all of Wake, Harnett, Johnston, Franklin, Nash and Wilson counties.

“This is a real run,” he said. “If I felt like he could do it better than me, I wouldn’t be running.”

Chesser, a Bunn High graduate, enlisted in the National Guard at 17 and deployed to Iraq for 11 months in 2005 and 2006. He worked in law enforcement in Nags Head and Raleigh.

Chesser describes himself as a “Christian constitutional conservative. That’s pro-gun, pro-life, limited government, a small influence on day-to-day life for middle America. The government shouldn’t follow me home from work.”

“I’m an individualist. I believe that our job is to reserve rights for people. The Constitution is a road map of lines the government shouldn’t cross. I look out for the greatest minority, which is the individual,” said Chesser, who supported Ted Cruz in the 2016 Republican primary and voted for Donald Trunp in the general election.

Holding is in his second term in Congress, but his first in the new-look 2nd District. He bested fellow incumbent Renee Ellmers in the 2016 primary before defeating Democrat John McNeil in the general election. Much of the Republican base turned on Ellmers over a perception that she was insufficiently conservative and too close to leaders of the Republican establishment.

Roy Moore’s defeat of a sitting senator in an Alabama Republican primary could embolden those considering challenging congressional incumbents from the right.

Holding, whose family owns First Citizens Bank, has raised more than $634,000 for his re-election campaign through the end of June, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures.

“He’s got a $600,000 head start on me this cycle,” said Chesser, who is running for the first time.

But he said some in the county leadership have thanked him for challenging the congressman. “They have presented legislative ideas to Holding with no response,” he said.

The same is true, he said, of veterans in the district.

“I know many, many, many veterans within Franklin County who have tried to reach out to him. They don’t feel like they’re getting the assistance that they should be provided by him,” Chesser said.

Holding said in February that he talks to constituents on a regular basis but that town halls are effectively “opportunities to protest.”

Three Democrats have filed campaign-finance paperwork in the district: Wendy Ella May, a transgender woman and veteran from Johnston County; Sam Searcy, a vodka distillery owner from Holly Springs; and Ken Romley, a Raleigh businessman.

Democrat Linda Coleman, who said she is planning to run, has not filed paperwork yet, according to the Federal Election Commission website.

Timmy Strickland is running as an unaffiliated candidate.

Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer