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North Carolina Rep. Holding won’t seek 2020 reelection

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republican Rep. George Holding announced on Friday he won’t run for reelection — the victim of a congressional map redrawn following a court order that now makes his district lean to the left.

Holding represents the Triangle-area 2nd Congressional District, which was dramatically altered by the state legislature a few weeks ago because state judges ruled it was likely the previous map was tainted with extreme partisan bias favoring the GOP.

In recent election cycles, the 2nd District included several rural, more conservative, counties adjoining Wake County, where Raleigh is located, along with a small portion of Wake. But the new 2nd sits entirely in Wake County, where Democratic voter registration is strong and recent electoral success abundant.

“I just don’t see an opportunity to win in the district that’s been drawn for me,” Holding said in a brief interview Friday in Washington. Deborah Ross, the unsuccessful Democratic U.S. Senate nominee in 2016 against GOP Sen. Richard Burr, already announced this week she was running for the new 2nd District seat.

Holding, a former U.S. attorney for eastern North Carolina and scion of a prominent banking family, was elected to the U.S. House in 2012, the first election after the first remapping occurred this decade in the states. Congressional lines have been adjusted twice since then — once after courts determined unlawful racial gerrymandering occurred and the other this fall when judges said partisan gerrymandering probably happened.

Holding, 51, could have decided to run for another seat, as he did in 2016, when boundaries were changed. That time, he defeated then-Rep. Renee Ellmers in the Republican primary, then went on to win the general election. But he said he won’t do that this time.

“Yes, the newly redrawn congressional districts were part of the reason I have decided not to seek reelection,” Holding said in a news release. “But, in addition, this is also a good time for me to step back and reflect on all that I have learned.”

Republicans currently hold 10 of the 13 U.S. House seats in North Carolina, where closely divided statewide elections are common and where Democrats remain the largest voting bloc. Legislators who debated the new map last month say the lines appear to narrow the Republican advantage to 8-5.

The other Republican incumbent threatened by the new map is GOP Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro in the 6th District. A Walker spokesman said this week that Walker was considering a late challenge of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in the March 3 GOP primary, or taking on GOP Reps. Ted Budd in the 13th District or Patrick McHenry in the 10th District. Candidate filing ends Dec. 20.

Holding said Friday he “hasn’t ruled out” running for something in 2022. North Carolina is expected to receive a 14th U.S. House seat following the 2020 census. And Burr has said he isn’t seeking reelection in 2022.

Holding said in his release there may be “other opportunities for me to fight for the ideals and conservative principles I believe in.”

While U.S. attorney for eastern North Carolina, Holding prosecuted then-state House Speaker Jim Black and former presidential candidate John Edwards on campaign finance charges. He left the post before the Edwards case went to trial in 2012. A jury acquitted Edwards on one count and was deadlocked on several others.

Associated Press writer Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.