Fact-checking the congressional race between Linda Coleman and Rep. George Holding

Linda Coleman, left, is challenging Republican incumbent George Holding in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District.
Linda Coleman, left, is challenging Republican incumbent George Holding in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District.

The race in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District has quietly morphed into one of the nation’s more competitive contests.

Incumbent Republican George Holding is trying to fend off a challenge from Democrat Linda Coleman, a former state representative. The district sprawls east of Raleigh to include parts of Franklin, Wake, Nash, Johnston and Harnett Counties.

Holding was elected to his seat in 2016 after serving two terms as a representative for the 13th Congressional District. Coleman won the Democratic primary after failed bids to become lieutenant governor in 2012 and 2016.

The key issues have been immigration, taxes and health care. Here’s a look at our fact-checks on the race.

Holding on sanctuary cities

In September, the Holding campaign released video and radio ads claiming Coleman supports sanctuary cities, which limit cooperation with immigration authorities to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

We fact-checked whether Orange County "released" a sex offender instead of turning him over to immigration authorities - "like a sanctuary city."

The Holding campaign said the ad was referring to Udiel Aguilar-Castellanos, who pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery and was required to register as a sex offender. Although he had originally faced two felony charges, he was released after entering his plea deal because he had already served 293 days in jail while awaiting trial.

We rated Holding’s claim Half True because the man was released, but only after he had completed his sentence.

Holding on Obamacare premiums

During an Oct. 22 debate, Holding said, "Obamacare raised premiums by 100 percent, and after that 91 percent of the people were covered, but we’re all paying 100 percent more."

There were fragments of truth in Holding’s statement, but the way he constructed it made for a significant distortion. The 100 percent increase likely came from a 2017 Department of Health and Human Services report that itself listed several limitations to its findings.

More importantly, Holding’s claim that "we’re all paying 100 percent more" was misleading because it conflated the whole insured population with the 2 to 5 percent of people who buy their coverage on the ACA’s individual exchange market.

For most people, the premium increases haven’t been nearly that steep. The vast majority of Americans get their coverage from employers, Medicare or Medicaid and saw increases that were much smaller than 100 percent. 

We rated Holding’s statement False because it’s simply not true that everyone has been paying 100 percent more since Obamacare took effect.

Coleman on Holding’s voting history

During the same debate, Coleman blasted Holding for his attempts to chip away at the Affordable Care Act.

"George Holding has voted 13 times to deny Kevin, and the 300,000 people like him in the 2nd Congressional District, coverage," Coleman said, referring to a leukemia survivor.

PolitiFact checked the record and found that Holding voted multiple times to repeal or roll back provisions from the Affordable Care Act with bills that would have made changes to or removed protections for pre-existing conditions.

Not all of Holding’s votes were for bills that stood a chance at passing, however, since some came when President Barack Obama was in office. And others would have let insurers hike premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, rather than deny coverage outright.

We rated this statement Mostly True because Holding has voted on several repeal bills, but there are some caveats.

Coleman on health care costs for seniors

During an Oct. 26 town hall, Coleman said, "Seniors can be charged five times what anybody else is charged for health care for pre-existing conditions" under the Republican health care bill.

Coleman had a point that the American Health Care Act of 2017 would have allowed insurers to charge adults ages 50 to 64 up to five times what they charged others for the same coverage.  

But Coleman’s use of the word "seniors" was misleading. Merriam-Webster defines a senior as an elderly person, and not all elderly people get their coverage from the individual market, where the 5-to-1 ratio would have taken effect.

The AHCA’s change would not have applied to the vast majority of seniors – who get coverage from Medicare – or the many older adults with employer-provided coverage.

Additionally, Obamacare already lets insurance companies charge older adults three times what they charge younger adults — a fact Coleman omitted. And the AHCA’s new provision would have also let states implement their own ratios, which may have differed from the 5-to-1 default.

We rated this statement Mostly False because the change would not have affected all seniors and because the 5-to-1 ratio was only slightly higher than the current status under Obamacare.

This story was produced by the North Carolina Fact-Checking Project, a partnership of McClatchy Carolinas, the Duke University Reporters’ Lab and PolitiFact. The NC Local News Lab Fund and the International Center for Journalists provide support for the project, which shares fact-checks with newsrooms statewide.