Moore, Berger will bid to keep lead­er­ship roles

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY CRAIG JARVIS [email protected]­sob­server.com

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 some- time 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.”

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.

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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