Congressman George Holding is the latest House Republican to retire and the first casualty of North Carolina's new election map, which Republicans were court-ordered to redraw amid concerns over partisan gerrymandering.
Holding announced on Friday that he won't run for reelection, and he said the new map, which made his district solidly blue rather than red, played a role in his decision.
"I should add, candidly, that, yes, the newly redrawn congressional districts were part of the reason I have decided not to seek reelection. But, in addition, this is also a good time for me to step back and reflect on all that I have learned," he said in a statement.
Earlier this week, state judges approved a new map drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature after they ruled that the previous map consisted of "extreme partisan gerrymanders" that would have made it easier for Republicans to win U.S. House races. The latest map was still challenged by voters and redistricting reform advocates, but judges said there wouldn't be enough time in the election cycle to hear more arguments.
Districts like Holding's were redrawn to include areas with more registered Democrats. His 2nd Congressional District previously included only a small portion of Raleigh within a bigger rural area but now encompasses more of the city and its suburbs.
"After keeping one foot out the door for weeks, it is no surprise Congressman Holding ultimately decided to call it quits rather than face near-certain defeat at the polls next November," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos.
Republicans held a 10-3 advantage with the old congressional map, but now Democrats are aiming for a 8-5 split and are expected to pick up Holding's seat as well as Mark Walker's 6th Congressional District in Greensboro.
Walker is weighing his options: He may run in Representative Ted Budd's neighboring congressional district that's politically safer for Republicans, or he may run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis.
"While politicians in North Carolina rush to plant the flag of their own ambitions — disregarding the people they are privileged to serve and trading constituencies like baseball cards — I will continue to pray and seek clarity on God's path forward," Walker wrote in a Facebook post. "Filing will remain open until December 20th and I feel no pressure to rush a decision."
Holding has been in Congress since 2012. His retirement continues the streak of more than 20 House Republicans voluntarily leaving office after 2020 or running for Senate.
He left the door open, however, for making a political comeback.
"I am also hopeful that, if it is part of the Good Lord's plan, I will someday return to public office ... to fight for the ideals and conservative principles I believe in," he wrote.
North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District has been held by a Republican since 2010 but could see a crowded Democratic primary field in 2020 as a result of the new maps. While Veteran Scott Cooper launched a campaign in April and leads Democrats in fundraising, Andrew Terrell and state lawmaker Deborah Ross filed to run as soon as the new maps were accepted by the court.
Caroline Cournoyer contributed to this report.