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Rowan legislator seeks leadership post in Raleigh

Wants to be speaker

N.C. Rep. Harry Warren of Salisbury

N.C. Rep. Harry Warren of Salisbury

By Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

RALEIGH — North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore is facing a challenge to keep the job from a fellow Republican, even as the GOP appears to have maintained its veto-proof majority in last week’s elections under Moore’s leadership.

Three-term Rep. Harry Warren of Salisbury said this week he’s a candidate to lead the chamber.

The nominee chosen by the House Republican Caucus — meeting soon to organize for the next two years — would be the overwhelming favorite when the General Assembly convenes in January, since Republicans are likely to hold 74 of the chamber’s 120 seats.

Warren has been aligned with the more conservative wing of the caucus, comprised of about 20 members who have accused Moore of negotiating with the Senate or the governor without weighing enough their input.

Getting enough caucus support to defeat a sitting speaker would be daunting. Rep. Jason Saine, a Moore ally, said Tuesday he believed Moore would win the nomination for a second term as speaker.

Warren wrote to current and incoming House Republicans that it’s time for a “clean slate” and Donald Trump’s election signals a rejection of “business as usual.”

“We have passed many great reforms since 2011 and have clearly established the effectiveness of Republican policies,” Warren wrote in a letter first made public by The Daily Haymaker, a conservative blog. “However, we have repeatedly failed to control the narrative in the public domain, giving the liberal Democrats the latitude to unleash their negative messaging for public consumption.”

Republicans also have failed to think through legislation with “unforeseen consequences that have been costly to us,” Warren wrote.

He cited House Bill 2, the law passed in March limiting LGBT rights and where transgender people can use restrooms in public buildings. The law was a response to an ordinance approved by the Charlotte City Council.

H.B. 2 could have been unnecessary had the General Assembly passed another law that would have prevented Charlotte from ever passing such an ordinance, Warren wrote.

In an interview, Warren downplayed direct criticism of Moore and said he was simply offering a different leadership style that he believes would give all members a role in decision making.

“I think Tim’s done a good job, and he did a very fine job with the (fall) election and his involvement with the candidates,” Warren wrote.

Moore spokesman Joseph Kyzer said the speaker had no comment on Warren’s candidacy. In a video posted to his Facebook page, Moore said Republicans would continue in 2017 to push for controlled budget growth, lower taxes and less regulation.

“We’re going to build on our success from last year,” said Moore, a Kings Mountain attorney who first joined the House in 2003.

Electoral success last week is proof enough that Republicans should keep Moore as speaker, said Saine, R-Lincoln, senior chairman of the House Finance Committee. House Democrats had aimed to win four more seats to eliminate the GOP’s veto-proof majority, but only managed one. A speaker is considered the chief fundraiser to help Republican candidates.

“When you can retain a supermajority in the toxic election year like we’ve just seen,” Saine said, “there’s no need to change our leadership.”

Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, is seeking a fourth term to lead his chamber and is all but assured of election in January. Republicans will hold 35 of that chamber’s 50 seats.

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