The 2nd Congressional District technically may be an open seat, but Republican nominee George Holding is a two-term incumbent seeking a third term. Holding now represents the 13th District, but when federal courts forced the General Assembly to draw new maps, state lawmakers moved the 13th District about 100 miles west from its former location in and around the Triangle. Holding chose to run against 2nd District incumbent U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in the June 7 primary, and defeated her and one other opponent to win his party’s nomination.

The newly drawn 2nd District includes Franklin, Nash, and Harnett counties, as well as portions of Wake and Johnston counties. It’s considered a strong Republican district by the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation. The general election will be Nov. 8.

Holding, a former U.S. attorney, will face Democrat John McNeil, a Raleigh attorney, Marine, and self-described “military brat.” McNeil bested four other Democrats to win his party’s nomination.

McNeil said he’s running because he believes the U.S. House of Representatives should be filled with people who represent the backgrounds of their constituents, not only those at the top of the economic scale.

“The 2nd District, that’s a working man’s district,” McNeil said. “I’m a working-class guy with an Ivy League education. I’ve got a successful law firm, but I started out mowing lawns in the third grade and worked every single year of my life at some kind of unglamorous job.” He said the lack of elected officials who reflect the people they represent is what is causing so much gridlock in Washington.

Holding also mentioned gridlock when asked why he is seeking a third term in Congress.

“Divided government makes it difficult, but that’s the way our Constitution is written with all the checks and balances,” Holding said. “There are a lot of important issues at hand that we’ve got to come together and we’ve got to deal with.”

“Terrorism is first and foremost,” Holding said. “This deal that we’ve done with Iran, the more we learn about it, the worse it gets with the ransom payments.”

Holding continued. “You have the Obama administration giving Iran over $1 billion, $400 million of it in cash,” he said. “Iran is still the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”

Holding also said that people back home understand that “we are not safe.”

Terrorism and health care are the two top topics he’s hearing about from constituents, he said.

“We just got word that Blue Cross and Blue Shield will continue to offer Obamacare plans [in North Carolina] next year, but if they lose another $200 million, they’re not going to stay in business,” Holding said. He said Obamacare “is disintegrating before our very eyes. It’s not lowering health care costs.” He said more providers are pulling out because they’re losing money.

McNeil said he believes the economy is the top issue in the campaign.

“The 2nd District is not a Morrisville, it’s not a Cary, it’s not an RTP,” McNeil said. “It’s a district full of farmers. It’s a district full of Jimmy’s Gas Stations. It’s not a Sheetz.”

McNeil said the district has a lot of hard-working people who have been left out in the cold.

“If there’s been a Carolina Comeback, it has missed a majority of the 2nd District,” McNeil said. “Part of my job up in Congress is going to be to attract business into the 2nd District,” adding that he also wants to make it easier for those already have businesses to grow and expand.

On terrorism, McNeil said, “I think as a nation we have to refocus our efforts on protecting the nation versus going out and sticking our fingers in every single conflict that has ever existed in the history of mankind.”

McNeil said that unlike Holding, he’s worked with his hands to get what he’s achieved. “I’ve owned a small business; I’ve worked my way through college; worked my way through law school,” McNeil said. “I’m an old Marine. I know the commitment that our nation made to our veterans.” He said he doesn’t believe Holding understands that.

Holding, when asked about the biggest difference between the two, pointed to contrasts on issues and political philosophy.

“My opponent, he ran the Veterans for Bernie Sanders in North Carolina; he comes from that end of the liberal spectrum,” Holding said, noting that he’s a conservative. “[McNeil] supported the Iranian deal. He supported Obamacare, and I don’t support either one of them.”

McNeil said the Affordable Care Act has improved the state of health care.

“As a small business owner, it’s costing me more to get insurance,” McNeil said. “But on the plus side, I’ve got everybody in my law firm covered where I wasn’t able to cover them before. Now I’m able to afford it.” He suggested some improvements. One is give the program the ability to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, he said. He also wants to get more insurance companies involved in North Carolina markets.

On fiscal policy, McNeil said the federal government is on a very foolish path. “We’ve spent the last 15 years swiping the credit card that our grandkids are going to pay off,” McNeil said. Right now, spending is out of control and everybody wants to talk about cutting taxes. But you don’t get rid of $19 trillion in debt and cut a deficit just by cutting taxes and spending irresponsibly.”

Holding says tax reform would help spur economic growth, which is a key to reducing the national debt. Congress has been working on putting together a tax reform package for the past two years, he said. “I think the potential for tax reform is huge,” he added.

“If we maintain 2 percent or less growth for another five, six, eight years, there’s no way we can even approach paying off the debt,” Holding said. “The only thing that gets us out of debt is growth rates in the economy at 4 percent, or hopefully above. Spending also needs to be brought under control, he said.

The current tax system encourages companies to leave the United States, Holding said. “We need to encourage companies to come here,” he said. “Tax reform is about the last tool in the government’s tool box to try to spur growth.”