2nd  U.S. Congressional District (includes all of Franklin, Harnett, and Nash counties, and portions of Johnston, Wake, and Wilson counties.)

  • George Holding, Republican. (one-term incumbent, served two terms in 13th Congressional District). Education: Wake Forest University degrees in classics and law. Occupation: Congressman. Career highlights: Member of House Ways and Means Committee. Former legislative counsel for U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, and a U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted high-level politicians.
  • Linda Coleman, Democrat. Education: North Carolina A&T State University, bachelor’s degree. University of Pittsburgh, master’s in public administration. Occupation: Retired. Career highlights: Three terms in N.C. House of Representatives. Director of Office of State Personnel. Wake County Commissioner. Two-time lieutenant governor candidate.
  • Jeff Matemu, Libertarian. Education: American University, Washington School of Law, master of laws degree. Occupation: Attorney. Career highlights: Member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Democratic candidate Linda Coleman would not say whether she would support California Rep. Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker if Democrats take back the chamber in the Nov. 6 general election. Incumbent Republican George Holding didn’t say who he backs to replace outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

“Look, I am just trying to win this race,” Coleman said during their hourlong debate Monday, Oct. 22. She said she would consider all options if she upsets Holding in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.

“There are a half a dozen people who are equally competent,” Holding said, and he will consider each carefully.

National attention has focused on the district as Democrats hope to ride a blue wave into power. What was considered a safe seat in a Republican-leaning district is now up for grabs. The political website FiveThirtyEight gives Holding roughly a 60-percent chance of winning, while some polls show Coleman slightly favored.

The candidates exchanged partisan jabs during the debate, hosted by Spectrum News and moderated by Tim Boyum. Libertarian candidate Jeff Matemu didn’t participate.

Holding laced references to the Republican tax cut throughout his responses, attributing his statistics to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Those data show families and small businesses receive 77 percent of the tax cut relief. An average family of four in North Carolina will receive a $2,200 tax reduction. The economy showed a 42 percent growth in the last quarter, unemployment is at its lowest rate since 1969, and the rate of voluntary resignations are at the highest level ever, indicating people are moving into better jobs.

Middle class income is growing at its fastest clip since 2008, and the number of Americans who have to fill out tax returns will decrease from 48 million to 17 million due to tax form simplification.

If Coleman goes to Washington, Holding said, she would vote to repeal the tax reform, sabotaging economic growth.

“I am not for having this bill at the expense particularly of our seniors,” Coleman said. “We all know the wealthiest among us are getting the majority of the tax cut,” she said.

She said traveling North Carolina is like Wall Street versus Main Street. People are struggling, some have two and three jobs, and work more than 40 hours a week.

“This is not the way the American dream should operate,” Coleman said.

“I believe that health care is a right for all Americans,” she said. She would find ways to cut prescription drug costs and ensure pre-existing conditions are covered. She criticized Holding for trying to kill Obamacare, but stopped short of saying Medicare should become the basis for universal health care. She said seniors would pay five times as much as others for insurance premiums under a plan Holding supports which would repeal Obamacare.

Holding said Obamacare doesn’t work, and insurance premiums skyrocketed as a result. Under Obamacare seniors could be charged three times more than younger adults, but that was well below market rates. Under the American Health Care Act he backed, seniors could be charged five times as much to reflect market conditions, but they would get larger tax credits, and pre-existing conditions would be covered.

The House passed the bill, but the Senate didn’t. President Trump said he would sign the bill, and lawmakers might revisit it next year, Holding said.

Both candidates said they believe climate change is real, and humans have some part in it. Coleman said she was disappointed President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords. She blamed climate change for billions of dollars in damages from recent California wildfires and the two hurricanes that hit North Carolina.

Holding said America would have been disproportionately saddled with demands under the Paris accords, and “the Obama administration layered on trillions of dollars of regulatory burden, and it stymied the economy.” He thinks responses to climate change must be based on cost-benefit analyses.

Coleman and Holding agreed special counsel Robert Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation of President Trump.

Coleman said she would not vote to impeach Trump unless Mueller recommended it. She doesn’t support impeaching Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but said the Senate should do a better job vetting future nominees.

Holding said Kavanaugh passed seven FBI background checks, served at the highest levels of government, and his confirmation process “was an absolute circus. It was an embarrassment to the Senate.”

Coleman didn’t name any areas of policy agreement with President Trump or disagreements with national Democrats. But she noted that, as a member of the General Assembly, she opposed a Democratic-drafted budget bill which didn’t raise state employees’ pay.

Holding supports many of President Trump’s policies, and met with him repeatedly while working on the GOP tax bill. But he dislikes the president’s political style, and thinks he should discontinue early morning Twitter posts. He opposes the president’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

Both candidates agree the immigration system is broken.

Coleman doesn’t think a border wall is the answer, and opposes family separation at the border. But she offered no solution other than urging bipartisan cooperation on a complex problem to develop a tough, fair, morally just alternative.

With thousands of refugees from Central American nations streaming toward the U.S. border, Holding agreed with Trump’s desire to reduce incentives for illegal entry. He said America’s southern neighbors must be partners. Their unwillingness to help stem illegal immigration to the U.S. makes him question why they receive foreign aid.

Holding said Coleman is on record supporting sanctuary cities, and if she defeats him she would vote to make it easier for local or state governments to shield illegal immigrants from arrest and deportation. He cited a case in Orange County in which the sheriff refused to hold an illegal immigrant who qualified for deportation. The man was released and committed more crimes.  

Coleman said there are no declared sanctuary cities in the 2nd Congressional District. She wants illegal aliens who commit crimes to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

“I believe what George Holding is doing is fear-mongering. We cannot run government like that,” she said.

But she repeatedly accused Holding of supporting policies that would harm women, children, the disabled, seniors, and military veterans, and said she opposes entitlement reform.

On fiscal matter, Coleman cited no specific plan on reducing national debt other than cutting waste, fraud, and abuse.

Holding said Social Security is going bankrupt. The options are to cut benefits or juice the economy. He said the GOP tax cut bill will help protect Social Security. Job growth over the next 10 years should increase payroll taxes by $300 billion, and as jobs are created, Social Security will get more revenue to ensure seniors get their benefits.

Holding supports workfare for able-bodied adults to get food stamps. Coleman does not.