Kathy Harrington named NC Senate majority leader

State Sen. Kathy Harrington is pictured in this undated file photo.

RALEIGH — The N.C. Senate will have a female majority leader for the first time in the chamber’s history.

N.C. Senate Republicans on Monday held internal leadership elections and nominated Gaston County Sen. Kathy Harrington to the No. 2 leadership position by a unanimous vote. Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) has held the post since 2011 and did not seek re-election in 2020.

Following the vote, Harrington said, “It’s such an honor to have earned the faith and trust of my colleagues for this leadership position. North Carolina has been well-served by the past decade of low taxes, responsible spending and investments in education, and I’m excited to work with my colleagues to continue that agenda.”

Harrington is the first female majority leader for either caucus since the position’s inception in the Senate in 1977. First elected in 2010, Harrington served as a co-chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee in the last two-year legislative biennium.

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Eden) said, “Sen. Harrington is a powerful voice in the caucus and works tirelessly behind the scenes. You may not read about her very often in the paper, but she’s a force in the Senate. I’m excited about her election and I know she’ll do a wonderful job.”

The caucus also agreed unanimously to nominate Berger to a sixth term as Senate president pro tempore, which is the chamber’s most powerful position. His time as Senate leader is second only to Democratic Sen. Marc Basnight of Dare County, who served 18 years in that position and was Berger’s predecessor as president pro tempore.

“I appreciate the vote of confidence from my colleagues and look forward to leading the Senate Republican Caucus into this new decade,” said Berger. “We have a talented group that will forge ahead on the formula that created a boom decade in North Carolina: low taxes, reasonable regulations, and a strong education system.”

Senate Republicans rounded out their leadership team by naming Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County as deputy president pro tempore, Sens. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) and Jim Perry (R-Lenoir) as Senate whips, and Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) as caucus finance chair.

Senate Democrats returned their top leaders to the same roles, naming Sen. Dan Blue of Wake County to a fourth term as Democratic Leader and fellow Wake County Sen. Jay Chaudhuri as Senate Democratic Caucus Whip.

“I am excited by the confidence that this caucus has shown in my leadership,” Blue said in a statement. “Having added another Democratic seat to the Senate, we are now ready to get to work navigating the on-going pandemic and passing a bipartisan state budget that addresses our pressing needs.”

House Republicans already announced that Speaker Tim Moore will lead their chamber for another two years when the legislature reconvenes in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.