The redistricting plan adopted last year by the General Assembly morphed the boundaries of the 13th U.S. Congressional District so much that its own congressman chose not to seek re-election. Five-term Democratic Rep. Brad Miller, who won by 10 points in the Republican wave of 2010, is not pursuing a sixth term. With the new district’s demographics favoring the GOP, analysts say the open seat is the state’s most likely to switch from Democrat to Republican.
Under redistricting, the 13th dropped Alamance, Caswell, Guilford, Person, and Rockingham counties, but added portions of Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Nash, Vance, Wayne, and Wilson counties. More of Wake County and less of Granville County are in the newly drawn district, which is now more Republican-friendly.
Former U.S. Attorney George Holding, who was a key player in several political corruption prosecutions in North Carolina, is the beneficiary of the new district lines. He faces Charles Malone, a human resources professional in the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The candidates take distinctly different approaches to the issues, beginning with Medicare, the federal health insurance program for retirees and the disabled. Both say the program is unsustainable in its current form, but their agreement ends at that point.
Holding has embraced Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s approach to Medicare reform — give seniors “premium support,” or vouchers to buy private insurance plans of their choice in hopes that private insurers will be able to keep costs lower than Medicare. Seniors would have the option to stay in traditional Medicare if they prefer.
Malone agrees that Medicare needs to be rescued, but thinks the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, will take care of the problem.
“Medicare [and health care in general] should be a guaranteed benefit and not subject to the whims of a private market,” Malone said. “The closer we can come to making health care something that doesn’t have to go through the prism of making a profit, we’re better off.”
Holding disagreed, saying the best way to bring down the cost of providing health care for seniors — or anyone for that matter — is to introduce “free enterprise” and “competition” into the mix.
“I think the best example is LASIK surgery,” he said. “Ten years ago, LASIK surgery cost $5,000, and you didn’t have a lot of choices. Today, LASIK surgery costs less than $1,000 and you’ve got lots of choices. That’s an elective surgery, not covered under insurance, and it’s a good example of what you can achieve if you allow the marketplace and customer choice [to] drive health care decisions.”
Holding said he was unsure whether he would have supported the 2006 health care reform law in Massachusetts championed by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who was the Bay State’s governor at the time. Like Obamacare, the Massachusetts law mandates that nearly all state residents purchase health insurance. Those earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level receive free health coverage.
“I don’t know enough about his program in Massachusetts to answer that,” Holding said.
He said he did know enough about Obamacare, though, to say he doesn’t support it.
“I would vote to repeal Obamacare and I would not vote to implement anything that looked like Obamacare,” he said. “I can’t imagine the Republicans backing anything that looked like Obamacare, but I would happily stand against it if they did.”
Both candidates believe the United States needs to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
“Our dependence on foreign oil is a threat to our security,” Malone said. “We need to increase our domestic production and use sustainable energy sources so that we discontinue helping dictators become more wealthy when these tyrants don’t share our values.”
He said government should subsidize renewable energy production, including wind and solar. When asked if he thought the federal government’s subsidies to Solyndra were a good investment, he said returns on investments aren’t guaranteed “in any field, including clean energy.”
Holding said the way to reduce dependence on foreign oil “is to let free enterprise and the market dictate the extraction of energy.”
Holding said the way to create jobs is to cut spending, taxes, and regulation.
“The cost of complying with regulations 30 years ago was $100 billion a year,” he said. “Today it costs $1.75 trillion. Government is the problem, not the solution.”
Malone said the federal government should give companies tax credits for creating and keeping jobs in the United States and impose tax penalties for outsourcing them.
“Certainly companies’ first priority is to make profits, but they ought to be good citizens as well,” he said.
“Our founding fathers created this country under the premise that we have unlimited opportunities to achieve, equal opportunities, but not equal outcome,” Holding said. “Liberals get it backwards. They want an equal outcome for everything and that’s misguided.”
Malone said like Mitt Romney and his vice presidential pick, Paul Ryan, Holding believes in policies that favor the rich and hurt the poor.
“They believe when you help the people on top, that it’s going to rain prosperity on the middle class and working class,” Malone said. “I believe that’s not true. I believe when you protect the top 1 percent, they just hoard their money.”
Malone thinks growing up on a farm, serving in the military, and running a small business have made him more in tune with regular people’s needs.
“I’m not connected to large banks like he is. I come from Main Street, not Wall Street,” Malone said.
Holding, whose family founded First Citizens Bank, said his history as U.S. attorney of prosecuting political corruption should reassure voters that he wouldn’t become a corrupt politician if sent to Washington.
He has prosecuted drug traffickers, child pornographers, and would-be terrorists. In addition, Holding led the prosecution team that led to corruption convictions of former state agriculture commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, former U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance, former state Rep. Thomas Wright, and former House Speaker Jim Black, among others.
He also worked closely with state prosecutors investigating former Gov. Mike Easley, who took a felony plea on campaign finance violations.
At the end of the second quarter, campaign reports filed with the Federal Election Commission showed that Holding’s committee had spent slightly more than $1 million, raising more than $715,000 from contributions and accepting $325,000 in loans. The campaign had roughly $17,000 cash on hand. Malone made no second-quarter filing with the FEC.
Sara Burrows is a contributor to Carolina Journal.