N.C. House Republicans on Saturday selected Rep. Tim Moore as their nominee for House speaker, one of the most powerful political positions in state government.
The Republican caucus selected Moore, a 44-year-old lawyer from Kings Mountain in Cleveland County, from a field of six hopefuls. He will succeed Thom Tillis, who used the post to help launch a winning campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Moore won the speaker nomination on the first ballot with 37 votes of 73 members present.
Rep. George Cleveland of Jacksonville was absent.
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“This session is going to be about continuing to improve our economy, bringing more jobs to this state, providing more regulatory reform, continuing the direction we’ve been going in the last four years,” Moore said.
Moore was one of six candidates vying for the office in the weeks leading up to the vote. Reps. Justin Burr of Albemarle, Leo Daughtry of Smithfield, John Blust of Greensboro, Mitchell Setzer of Catawba and Bryan Holloway of King were also in the contest. The final vote tally was not made public.
Burr said after the meeting that the caucus was “absolutely” united behind Moore.
“We’re in a good position of having a good team of folks,” Burr said.
Moore campaigned hard for the job, producing a 12-page, full-color glossy booklet on his positions to distribute to Republican House members. He contributed more than $250,000 to candidates and political committees this election season, including at least $140,000 to the House Republican caucus committee.
The vote for speaker will be put to the entire 120-member House when the legislature begins its new session in January. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the chamber 74 to 46. If Republicans stick together for the January vote, Moore will win the job.
Moore said he was “absolutely confident” he’d get at least 74 votes in January and hoped House Democrats join Republicans in electing him.
More new leaders
Republicans elected a whole slate of leaders Saturday in a meeting that lasted more than four hours.
• Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherfordton, who was elected majority leader after four ballots, replacing Rep. Edgar Starnes of Hickory.
• Rep. Paul Stam of Apex, who was re-elected speaker pro tem.
• Rep. John Bell of Goldsboro, who was elected majority whip.
• Rep. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh, who was elected to the new post of deputy majority leader.
• Rep. Charles Jeter of Huntersville, who was made majority conference chairman, responsible for preparing for the 2016 campaign.
• Rep. Pat Hurley of Asheboro, who was elected joint caucus leader and will “help put a different face on North Carolina as far as our Senate and House working together.”
As speaker, Moore would be the face of the state House and the chamber’s lead representative of House Republicans’ position in negotiations with Senate leader Phil Berger and Gov. Pat McCrory.
Berger issued a statement congratulating Moore and the other caucus leaders, saying he looked forward to working closely with them.
Berger and McCrory have a rocky relationship, and in the past two years, McCrory used the House as a conduit to advance his positions on key issues such as tax policy and a proposed Medicaid overhaul.
Moore said he has good relationships with both McCrory and Berger and has worked with them on routine issues such as the appointments bill and on weightier matters such as budget provisions.
“I have huge respect and admiration for both Sen. Berger and Gov. McCrory,” Moore said. “I don’t seek out conflict – matter of fact I generally try to seek out consensus. But there will be issues where we disagree and when we do so, we deal with each other honestly.”
Medicaid is one of the issues where Moore appears to disagree with the governor. McCrory said recently he would consider a plan to expand Medicaid to more low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act. Moore said he did not think expansion is a good idea.
Moore said he would leave such positions up to the caucus but that he was concerned about the federal deficit and that the federal government would not keep its commitment to paying most of the costs for those added in an expansion.
House speakers are also positioned to push their own priorities. Tillis was pivotal in getting funds for private school vouchers and state compensation for victims of forced and coerced sterilization under the state eugenics program.
Moore will have the task of holding together a large group with diverse views. House Republicans were divided this year on the major issue of financial incentives for economic development. As a result of the split, the House defeated a bill that McCrory and the Senate badly wanted. Moore voted for the incentives.
Moore is in his sixth term and is chairman of the House Rules Committee. One of his most visible roles has been policing floor debates. House Democrats have complained of his use of parliamentary procedure to cut off debate.
In the last few years, Moore’s legal work has intersected with government business. He works for an investor in a casino the South Carolina-based Catawba Nation wants to build in Cleveland County. Most House members opposed the project, which could expand Las Vegas-style games.
Moore disagreed with his colleagues, and wanted the state to enter into a compact with the tribe to share the gambling profits.
But he said last year that he had told his House colleagues of his conflict and withdrawn from any legislative discussion on the issue.
He said Saturday that he’s handling local real estate issues connected to the project and doesn’t think that will have any connection to state action.
“Any issue where the state would be acting, I would recuse myself from involvement in any way,” he said.
Moore also represents Cleveland County Water, which has proposed a controversial reservoir. In 2011, he cosponsored a law promoting the development of water supply reservoirs.
Patrick Gannon of the NC Insider contributed.