Letters reveal contention within Republicans race for state House speaker

Letters from House speaker candidates to their Republican colleagues paint a picture of a contentious race for the chamber’s top job.

The letters, obtained by the Insider, from four of the six candidates provide details about how they would handle the job if elected – and in doing so indicate that some House members may not have approved of the leadership style of outgoing speaker and U.S. Sen.-elect Thom Tillis, the way he handled legislation or the way his staff communicated Republican accomplishments in the legislature.

The documents are a rare glimpse into the inner workings and atmosphere of the Republican House Caucus ahead of a meeting Saturday in Asheboro where they’ll pick their choice for the next Speaker of the House.

Republicans hold 74 of the 120 so the winner on Saturday is expected to be elected when the full House votes on Jan. 14, unless there is a split within the party.

The letters seeking support from their colleagues were written by Reps. Justin Burr of Albemarle, Leo Daughtry of Smithfield, Bryan Holloway of King and Tim Moore of Kings Mountain. Reps. John Blust of Greensboro and Mitchell Setzer of Catawba also are vying for the post.

In what appeared to be references to Tillis’ management style, both Reps. Tim Moore of Kings Mountain and Justin Burr of Albemarle wrote about ending the “top-down” management of the chamber.

“Even a tethered dog thinks he has ‘freedom’ until he reaches the end of his chain, and I want to remove the five-foot chain that has been put on our committee chairs and our caucus,” wrote Burr, who at 29 is the youngest candidate.

Moore produced a six-page, full-color brochure that includes a short biography, a letter to colleagues and details of how he envisions the caucus structure and atmosphere, as well as his goals in areas such as business development, energy, health care and “supporting the family.”

As speaker, he wrote, he would organize and lead the caucus, raise money for members and “spot issues and votes that may damage vulnerable members in the election.”

Meanwhile Reps. Bryan Holloway of King and Leo Daughtry of Smithfield both noted the legislature’s unpopularity and said the messaging needed to improve.

Holloway wrote that he can deal well with the media and included links to YouTube clips of TV interviews about education issues but he also noted that “with caucus approval, we will hire a professional PR person on the Speaker’s staff to get the messaging right.”

He also wrote that he didn’t believe the race for speaker is a “fundraising” contest, and if so “it is already over,” a reference to Moore, whose campaign raised far more money than any of the other candidates this election cycle. Moore and Daughtry are seen as the favored candidates.

Daughtry, 73 and the oldest candidate, said the Republicans’ record should have been “wildly popular.” But, “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.”

Daughtry also noted the conflicts between the House and Senate the past four years and said it would be important for the two chambers to find common ground.

In another apparent reference to Tillis, he added that he wouldn’t use the speaker’s office as a “stepping stone.”