Regional and generational dynamics could be factors Saturday when 74 Republicans meet to choose the man likely to become one of North Carolina’s three most powerful officials.
House Republicans will meet in Asheboro to nominate a speaker to succeed Thom Tillis, a Huntersville Republican elected this month to the U.S. Senate.
Six lawmakers, including three from the Charlotte area, are running for the post. Though the full House will elect a speaker in January, the GOP choice will be the heavy favorite in a body where the party will continue to have a strong majority.
The race includes Charlotte-area Reps. Justin Burr of Albemarle, Tim Moore of Kings Mountain and Mitchell Setzer of Catawba. Reps. John Blust of Greensboro, Leo Daughtry of Smithfield and Bryan Holloway of King are also running.
“I don’t believe there’s a significant ideological or philosophical difference,” said John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation. “Instead, I think it’s a series of other dynamics: generational (and) regional.”
Along with fellow Republicans Gov. Pat McCrory and Senate leader Phil Berger, the speaker will automatically become one of the state’s most powerful elected officials.
Analysts say Moore and Daughtry appear to be the early front-runners.
Moore may have collected more IOUs than any other hopeful. He outraised the other five candidates and gave $253,750 to other candidates, more than twice as much as his nearest competitor, Burr.
“The conventional wisdom is Tim Moore is in the best shape,” said Francis De Luca, president of the Raleigh-based conservative Civitas Institute. “If he has not locked up the votes you might end up seeing Leo as a fallback.”
Daughtry pointed out that he’s the only candidate from east of Raleigh, a factor that could come into play.
“Obviously I think geography ought to play a role,” he said. “It would be helpful to have a speaker from the eastern part of the state.”
Moore, from Cleveland County, said that shouldn’t matter.
“Folks realize the days of East versus West are over,” he said. “I can promise I’m as worried about how things are in Pitt County or New Hanover as I am about the western part of the state. We’re all in this together.”
Here’s a look at the candidates: