One important election left this year—for House Speaker

daughtry-and-mooreElection season is not over yet. There’s another big contest left, the race inside the Republican House Caucus to be the next Speaker of the House. The campaign is not public of course. It is all happening behind the scenes and has been going on for months.

Here’s what we know so far from sources inside the Raleigh beltline.

There are two leading candidates, Rep. Leo Daughtry from Johnston County and Rep. Tim Moore from Cleveland County.  There were several other candidates running for a while, most notably Rep. Mike Hager from Rutherford County, Rep. John Blust from Guilford County, and Rep. Bryan Holloway from Stokes County.

Moore, the House Rules Chairman under Speaker Thom Tillis, was very active during the recent campaign, going door to door for Republican candidates and giving more than $250,000 from his campaign to the state Republican Party and to individual Republicans’ campaigns.

Daughtry, with 11 terms in the House after serving two in the Senate, has held most of the leadership posts other than Speaker in his legislative career and has promised not to use the office as a springboard. Daughtry ran for governor in 2000 but failed to win the Republican nomination. He’s clearly playing the role of the steady senior statesman in the race, if there is such a thing.

Neither Moore nor Daughtry are closely identified with the Tea Party wing of House Republicans. If they have a candidate, it would most likely be Hager, a former Duke Energy employee who has spoken out prominently on environmental issues in the House, almost always siding with corporate interests.

But the Speaker’s race is more like an election to student council than an important statewide political post. It’s as much about relationships, political favors, and personality as much as ideology.

Reportedly, Moore is claiming to have more than 50 votes locked up, far more than the majority of the 74 Republicans who will be in the House in 2015.  There’s no word on how many Daughtry claims to have in his camp, but it’s a safe bet that some names appear on both candidates’ lists. That’s the way it usually works in a Speaker’s race with everyone jockeying for position, trying to back the favorite to guarantee a key committee appointment or influential position in the caucus itself.

Blust and Holloway apparently have only a couple votes each. Hager had claimed a few more than that and was reportedly trying to make a deal with Moore or Daughtry, a ploy that resulted in an anonymous and  unflattering email about Hager being sent to caucus members recently.

The last word Monday was that Hager had dropped out of the race but Rep Justin Burr from Stanly County had thrown his name in the ring, a move perceived by insiders as a way to help Moore.

There are a couple of other interesting twists. A fairly high-ranking member of the McCrory administration is supporting Moore and may become his chief of staff if Moore becomes the next speaker.  Republican political consultants are also working in the contest, with all their efforts behind the scenes too.

Daughtry wasted no time after the election making sure House Republicans kept him at the front of their minds. Below is the text of an email Daughtry sent to House leaders the morning after the election.

Good morning Members:

What a night.  We are proud of Larry Yarborough and we welcome him to our caucus. We are particularly exuberant over the victory of Thom Tillis as our new U.S. Senator. At the same time, we mourn the loss of Tim Moffitt, Tom Murry, Nathan Ramsey and Mike Stone, but it is important that our caucus moves on to other serious matters.

While this may be old news, I thought it important to announce my candidacy for Speaker of the North Carolina House. There will be others in the race as our caucus is filled with good members who have much to offer.  I do not intend to be critical of anyone.  I want you to know about me and my reasons for running.

First, I have served in the minority and seen our state go in direction of unfettered growth and out -of-control spending.  I don’t want to go back there.  It is too important to our children and grandchildren to stay our course.

Second, it’s important to keep our caucus together.  We agree on most issues; when we debate and disagree, it’s the Speaker’s job to make sure we come back together — without any animosity towards each other.

Third, the Senate and House should be allies. We need to support one another.  It is especially important that we meet with the Senate early during Session, find common ground, and, where possible, agree to an agenda. I have been in the Senate and understand its institutional nature.  Moreover, I have been a negotiator — in politics and in business — for many years.  I know how to negotiate with an eye towards preserving the principles on which our caucus cannot and should not compromise.

Fourth, barring something unforeseen, our Governor will be at the top of the ticket in 2016.  Many of us benefitted from his coattails in 2012, and it is incumbent upon us to help ensure that he has coattails in 2016.

Fifth, money. We have seen the obscene amount of money required to run house races.  Those races will not get cheaper in two years, and there will be many up-ticket candidates — including a nominee for President — competing for the available dollars.  It is the responsibility of the Speaker to raise those funds and I am committed to raising the money necessary preserve and expand our majority.

Sixth, I have not made any promises regarding the employment of the Speaker’s staff or the selection of committee chairmen. I know we have members with great talent in many areas and I believe we ought to use them regardless of politics or longevity.  We can never go wrong if we let the talent of our caucus sponsor, debate, and enact legislation that is good public policy.

Seventh, I will not use the Speaker’s office as a stepping stone.  I will devote my entire energy to making this Session as successful as possible.  I want every member to contribute her and his unique talents in a Session where ideas triumph over politics-as-usual.

Thom Tillis did an good job as our Speaker and will make an outstanding United States Senator.  I am not running as a Tillis redux, but as a new person with new ideas.  If elected, I will lead our caucus as one who is committed to the rights of each member and to the conservative agenda we all share.  Last session, we cut taxes, limited spending increases, and increased spending on education.  By any measure, our record should have been wildly popular.  Instead, we found ourselves on the defensive throughout the election.  The reason is straight forward; a year ago, when the Moral Monday crowd began attacking us, we didn’t stand up and speak out.  If I am elected Speaker, that will change.

These are just a few reasons that I wanted to share.  There are many more and

I hope to personally talk with you before the vote.

Leo Daughtry

Interesting and somewhat ominous words about the Moral Monday movement, but they probably go over well among Daughtry’s Republican legislative audience.

We should know soon enough how it all turns out. Republican Caucus leaders are tentatively scheduled to meet November 15th to iron out the rules for the election for speaker.

And the caucus itself will meet to cast their votes a week later, on November 22. Stay tuned.


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