Jul 21, 2023 - News

A quiet race for power in North Carolina's state House

State Reps. Destin Hall (left) and John Bell. Photos: North Carolina General Assembly

North Carolina's embattled House Speaker Tim Moore, the longest-serving speaker in state history, has made it clear that this term will be his last as head of the Republican-led chamber.

  • Moore's exit from the position has long been anticipated by political observers, igniting a race to replace him that has been playing out behind the scenes for months.

Why it matters: North Carolina's House speaker, though not elected by the general public, is one of the most powerful politicians in the state.

  • The speaker has the authority to determine what bills ultimately become laws, what state agencies and programs are funded — and given the ability to carry out their mission — and who is granted power over the influential state boards and commissions, like the UNC System Board of Governors and the state's utilities commission.

Details: On the shortlist to replace Moore are two of the most powerful people in the chamber:

  • House Majority Leader John Bell, who has served in the legislature for six terms and is the longest-serving House majority leader in state history.
  • House Rules Committee Chair Destin Hall, a 30-something who quickly ascended to become a Republican leader and Moore's right-hand man when he was appointed to the position nearly three years ago.

Though Bell has already made clear his plans to run for speaker, Hall confirmed for the first time to Axios Friday that he also plans to campaign for the position.

  • "I've heard from an overwhelming number of members who are encouraging me to run and I'm planning to do so," Hall said in a statement. "Right now I'm focused on passing a budget, overseeing our redistricting process, and enlarging our majority in 2024."

Between the lines: Both Hall and Bell have considerable sway among fellow House Republicans.

  • Bell, who has more experience in the legislature, is tasked with helping to advance his party's agenda and keeping a pulse on the House Republican caucus in assessing how members feel about legislation and hearing their concerns.
  • "I feel like I've got a great reputation," Bell told WUNC on a podcast Friday when asked about his interest in the job. "I feel like I've worked hard to earn that trust. But we've still got a long ways to go to get through this session first."
  • Hall, though newer to the legislature, wields the ability to determine which bills live and die in the House chamber. In order for a bill to make it to a full vote on the House floor, legislation must first be heard in and pass Hall's Rules Committee.
  • The longer he's served in that position, the more momentum — and relevance — Hall has gained in his run for speaker.

Meanwhile: Moore was expected to run for Congress in 2022 until his plans were thwarted by former U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who ultimately lost the race after facing numerous scandals.

  • It's unclear what Moore's plans are for 2024, as he hasn't ruled out another run for state House, but some political observers predict that he'll make a run at Congress or another higher office in the next election.

The bottom line: The NC House speaker's election is still a long way off, and as we often like to remind our readers, anything could happen between now and then.

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