NC Sen. Newton new majority leader; Berger gets nod again

Published 11:55 pm Monday, November 28, 2022

By Gary D. Robertson
Associated Press

RALEIGH — Incoming and returning Republicans to the North Carolina Senate chose on Monday a key lawmaker on tax, voting and energy issues to become the chamber’s majority leader for the next two years.

The Senate Republican Caucus, meeting privately, elected Sen. Paul Newton of Cabarrus County to the majority leader’s post, according to a news release. Newton is a retired Duke Energy president for North Carolina first elected to the Senate in 2016.

In a separate meeting Monday, Senate Democrats reelected Sen. Dan Blue of Wake County to another term as minority leader.

Newton succeeds outgoing Sen. Kathy Harrington, who didn’t seek reelection this fall to her Gaston County seat. When Republicans chose her two years ago, Harrington was the first woman to hold the Senate majority leader job since the chamber created it over 40 years ago.

The majority leader presides at caucus meetings in which the majority party discusses policy issues and votes, and is usually considered a top lieutenant to the Senate president pro tempore.

The GOP caucus on Monday also agreed to nominate Phil Berger of Rockingham County to a seventh term as president pro tem when the entire chamber votes for the post when the two-year term convenes Jan. 11.

Republicans will hold 30 of the 50 Senate seats — a two-seat increase with the November elections — so Berger is all but assured of retaining the chamber’s most powerful position. His time holding the job — dating to 2011 — ranks second all-time to late Democratic Sen. Marc Basnight of Dare County, who served 18 years at the top.

Newton has been a co-chairman of the Senate finance and redistricting and elections committees. He also was heavily involved in negotiations over a bipartisan 2021 law that directs the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by electric energy producers, chiefly Duke Energy.

“I’m so appreciative of the support I have received from my colleagues and am ready to build on our prior success of lowering taxes, improving the quality of education, and spending responsibly,” Newton said in a news release.

The Senate GOP caucus also on Monday nominated Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County to another term as deputy president pro tempore and reelected Sens. Tom McInnis of Richmond County and Jim Perry of Lenoir County as majority whips.

Blue, who first became Senate Democratic leader in 2014, originally joined the General Assembly in 1981 in the House. He was the first Black speaker in North Carolina history, serving from 1991 through 1994. Sen. Jay Chaudhuri of Wake County also was reelected minority whip.

House Republicans earlier this month agreed to nominate Rep. Tim Moore of Cleveland County to what would be a record fifth two-year term as speaker. House Democrats will meet Dec. 5 to choose their leaders. Current House Minority Leader Rep. Robert Reives of Chatham County has said he will seek another two years at the job.