Rep. John Bell IV of Wayne County and Rep. Michael Speciale of Craven County have expressed interest in filling the remainder of former Rep. Mike Hager’s term as Republican House majority leader.
Rep. David Lewis, a Dunn Republican and the House Rules chairman, confirmed Thursday that they are the only two House GOP caucus members to inform him of their interest so far. House Republicans will meet Aug. 30 at the N.C. Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh to elect a new majority leader after Hager’s resignation from the General Assembly this week.
The new leader would serve only through early December, when the caucus is expected to select leaders for the 2017-18 biennium. Lewis said it’s important to have a caucus leader in place leading up to the November elections.
“We need somebody as majority leader to help articulate the Republican message and to make sure the voters know that we’re a unified party and unified caucus,” he said.
In a phone interview Thursday, Bell, the House majority whip, confirmed his interest in the majority leader position both for the short term and the next biennium, if he’s re-elected to his House seat in November.
Bell, 37, said his position as majority whip has helped him get to know all members of the caucus and how pieces of legislation affect individual districts. In his second term, Bell is chairman of the House Regulatory Reform Committee and the House Select Committee on Wildlife Resources. He works in business development for North Carolina Community Federal Credit Union in Goldsboro.
Bell is a strong favorite against Democrat Evelyn Paul in November. His district includes all or parts of Craven, Greene, Lenoir and Wayne counties. If Bell becomes majority leader, the caucus also would have to replace him as majority whip.
Speciale didn’t return a phone message Thursday. He is a retired U.S. Marine from New Bern in his second House term. He serves as chairman of the House Homeland Security, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
He is often aligned with the conservative Tea Party movement and routinely files bills related to the U.S. Constitution and gun rights. In 2015, he co-sponsored a bill to allow legislators and legislative employees with concealed handgun permits to carry their guns at the legislative complex.
Lewis declined to say who he favored as majority leader, but pointed out that the person would only serve out the remainder of Hager’s term. “While this majority leader may be short-lived, they are certainly needed,” Lewis said.
Republican Party leaders have selected Rutherfordton attorney David Rogers to fill Hager’s House seat and to take his place in the November election, according to The Daily Courier of Forest City.