Under the Dome

Rep. George Holding’s challengers dig into their own pockets for early campaign dollars

Congressman George Holding talks with Duane Cutlip upon his arrival on June 7, 2016, at the Hibernian in Raleigh, N.C.
Congressman George Holding talks with Duane Cutlip upon his arrival on June 7, 2016, at the Hibernian in Raleigh, N.C. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Two first-time Democratic candidates challenging Republican Rep. George Holding for his U.S. House seat next year are investing heavily in their own campaigns.

Sam Searcy, owner of a vodka distillery, raised $576,180 in the latest fundraising quarter from July through the end of September, a figure the campaign touted before the filings became public on the Federal Election Commission website.

But much of that money came from Searcy himself.

Searcy, of Holly Springs, loaned his campaign $450,000 and contributed another $30,800. The campaign reported $95,379 in individual contributions in the third quarter. Searcy announced in July that he would run.

“We’re not putting any money into the campaign that we’re not planning on spending,” said Robert Phillips, Searcy’s campaign manager. “Sam is a first-time candidate. He’s introducing himself to donors. We’re expecting to be increasing that significantly going forward. We are fine with that total. Sam was always planning to make sure he was investing in this race. He wants to make sure he has the resources to win.”

Raleigh entrepreneur Ken Romley also donated heavily to his campaign. Romley, who announced his candidacy in September just days before the end of the fundraising quarter, loaned his campaign $240,000, according to federal election data. Romley raised $14,544 in individual contributions.

“We won’t be out-raised,” said Thomas Mills, Romley’s campaign manager. “We’ll supplement whatever we’ve got to. We’re going to raise the money.”

Holding represents North Carolina’s 2nd District, which includes parts of Wake, Johnston, Nash and Wilson counties as well as all of Franklin and Harnett counties.

Democrat Linda Coleman, a former Wake County commissioner and N.C. House member who lost her bids for lieutenant governor in 2012 and 2016, said she would be officially filing her candidate paperwork “no later than Friday.”

“I am going to be getting into the race,” she said Tuesday. “I’ve got the political experience. I think I have the right agenda. I think my message is going to resonate with the people of the district.”

Three other challengers to Holding did not file fundraising reports: Wendy Ella May, a Democrat and transgender veteran from Johnston County; Allen Chesser, a Republican and Iraq war veteran from Louisburg; and unaffiliated candidate Timmy Strickland.

Holding raised $157,240 in the third quarter, his worst fundraising quarter of the year. For the year, Holding has raised $792,079 with most of that coming from political action committees.

Holding, a third-term congressman whose family controls First Citizens Bank & Trust, has $219,589 cash on hand, less than Searcy or Romley. Holding raised more than $2.6 million for his 2016 re-election campaign.

“Fundraising is like everything else. It goes up and it goes down,” said Carter Wrenn, who is working for Holding’s 2018 re-election campaign. “There are waves in the cycle.”

Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC