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Patrick Gannon: Next House speaker has tough job

RALEIGH – If you put 73 people in a room and they come out fully “united,” that’s a brainwashed cult.

Yet that’s the spin the state Republican House Caucus put on the selection of Rep. Tim Moore of King’s Mountain as its nominee to replace U.S. Sen.-elect Thom Tillis as House speaker. Moore, an attorney who also owns a metal recycling company, was chosen Saturday during a private meeting attended by 73 of 74 GOP House members. Barring an unexpected twist, the full, 120-member House will elect Moore as speaker in January. He would be second speaker ever from Cleveland County.

“We had a great discussion today,” Moore said after Saturday’s vote. “A lot of folks running for a lot of offices, and at the end of it, as we always do, we come together, and we are a united team.”

But as words of unity rolled off lawmakers’ tongues, signs pointed to a caucus not so united. Moore received 37 votes on the first ballot, just enough to garner a majority and stave off a second tally. With six candidates, that’s a strong number for Moore. But 36 House Republicans cast their secret-ballot votes for someone else.

Caucus leaders, when asked by the media, said they couldn’t remember who came in second or how many votes that person received. (That might have upset the “unified” narrative).

The House caucus is a group with a diverse membership of social conservatives, Tea Party-types and more middle-of-the-road Republicans. Moore’s ability to keep the group together will greatly impact the chamber’s strength in dealing with Democrats, the Senate and Gov. Pat McCrory.

In materials he gave to fellow Republicans, Moore said he would implement a caucus structure that “entrusts and empowers each member to accomplish the writing, running, and vetting of their own bills.”

“It is incumbent on members to persuade their colleagues with facts and arguments, not run them over,” he continued. “We will debate, and we will disagree, but we will stand as one caucus.”

Moore said it would be his job to lead the caucus in fundraising, to “craft legislative solutions for members that unlock their critical bills from stubborn negotiations,” to “spot issues and votes that may damage vulnerable members in the election” and interact with the media to communicate the GOP message.

Moore already has proven adept at fundraising. Through campaigning and cash, he helped many Republicans get elected earlier this month. During tough caucus negotiations in past sessions, insiders have said Moore has broken the ice with a joke, then offered reasonable solutions.

Many observers see Moore as a likable guy, and – at least until now – he has been media-friendly. If he stays true to his promises to colleagues, he may be successful – inside his caucus.

But then there’s the outside world – the protests, the sit-ins and advocacy groups, businesses and lobbyists with competing legislative agendas. And, of course, the stubborn Senate.

This 44-year-old father of two has his work cut out for him.

Gannon writes columns for Capitol Press Association.

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