Politics & Government

With a thinner majority, who will NC Republicans choose to lead them into 2019?

House Speaker Moore: “There’s always a healthy competition for influence among the branches (of government)”

Video: Speaker of the N.C. House Tim Moore talks to reporters about the upcoming 2017 session of the General Assembly following the convening of the Legislature in January.
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Video: Speaker of the N.C. House Tim Moore talks to reporters about the upcoming 2017 session of the General Assembly following the convening of the Legislature in January.

As Republicans in the state legislature regroup after losses to Democratic candidates in the general election, their top leaders want to remain in place.

House Speaker Tim Moore said he would ask the GOP caucus to retain him in that position. Senate leader Phil Berger’s office confirmed that he will also seek re-election as president pro tempore.

Republicans in the House and Senate will nominate new leaders sometime in early December. The General Assembly convenes for its long session in January, when its newly elected members will be sworn in and all lawmakers will vote whether to ratify the GOP nominations.

Republicans and Democrats will fill several other leadership positions in December. House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson of Raleigh said Thursday he has notified his party’s caucus that he will ask to be re-elected. Jackson said he didn’t know if others are also interested in running for the post. Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue’s office confirmed the Raleigh legislator wants to stay in that position if the caucus wants him to.

The ritual happens every other year. This year, it is complicated by the apparent loss of 16 Republican seats in the General Assembly — 10 in the House and six in the Senate. Ballots are scheduled to be canvassed by the end of the week.

The votes will likely be taken on a Saturday sometime in the first two weeks of December. That is after the legislature convenes for a planned brief session Nov. 27 taking up redistricting, hurricane recovery, voter identification and possibly other topics.

Moore said in a phone interview Wednesday that he has been told there are no other candidates in the running for House speaker. He said he has spoken with new and returning members, and they have told him they support him to continue as speaker.

“I am honored to continue serving as speaker if the caucus would like for me to do so,” Moore said.

Moore has been speaker since 2015, when he replaced Thom Tillis who left to run for U.S. Senate. Moore was a top Tillis lieutenant as chairman of the House Rules Committee. He was nominated on the first ballot, The News & Observer reported at the time, one of six candidates running for the position.

Only one other member of those six remains in office: Rep. Mitchell Setzer of Catawba County. Just two members of Moore’s original leadership team remain: Rep. John Bell of Goldsboro, who is now majority leader, and Rep. Pat Hurley of Asheboro, who is joint caucus liaison.

Bell said in an interview Wednesday that he would be willing to continue as majority leader if the House Republican caucus wants him to.

“I feel like I’ve done a good job helping with the caucus,” Bell said. “I’ll serve if the caucus wants me to stay in that position.”

House Speaker Thom Tillis talks with Reps. John R. Bell IV, left, and Ted Davis, Jr., right, while passing out candy before the convening of the House during opening day of the General Assembly in 2014. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Bell has risen quickly during his three terms in office, and now with the departures of a number of representatives due to retirement and the election, he is one of the more seasoned House members.

Bell said House leaders are beginning to assess what they can accomplish in 2019 with a smaller but still strong majority, with new members from both parties.

Berger, a nine-term senator from Eden, has been leader of the Republicans since they were in the minority and has led the 50-member Senate since the 2011 GOP takeover.

Moore, like any speaker, has a challenging job presiding over a 120-member chamber and working with a party caucus that has divergent agendas.

Moore, who lives in Kings Mountain, has been in office for nine terms.

Last month a state prosecutor said she asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into some of Moore’s outside legal work, following a story in The News & Observer. The prosecutor, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, said the inquiry was not a criminal investigation.

Recent reports have raised questions over whether North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore has mixed his legal work with his legislative responsibilities.

The speaker of the House and pro tem of the Senate maintain hearty campaign treasuries that are used to help elect members of their parties.

Berger raised $2.6 million through the first nine months of 2018, and spent $1.6 million on other candidates and political committees. Moore raised $1.9 million and spent $1.5 million on PACs and Republican candidates.

Berger won re-election over Democratic challenger Jen Mangrum and Libertarian candidate R. Michael Jordan with 63 percent of the vote. Moore defeated Democrat David C. Brinkley with 65 percent of the vote.

It was an election that saw Democrats sweeping out incumbents in urban and suburban races, particularly in Wake and Mecklenburg counties.

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