RALEIGH — Last week, news broke that top N.C. House Republicans had agreed to back Rules Committee Chairman Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) as the preferred choice as speaker for the next legislative biennium.
Since the announced departure of current speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain), at least four candidates were publicly known to be working towards bids for job: Hall, House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne), Senior Appropriations Chair Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Freedom Caucus leader Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort).
In various news reports and on the Do Politics Better podcast, hosted by lobbyists Brian Lewis and Skye David, Hall, Bell and Saine collectively shared the decision to anoint Hall as the preferred speaker nominee.
On Wednesday, Oct. 25, the Republicans shared the news during a Republican caucus meeting as the legislative session wound to a close. According to sources in the room at the meeting, there was an overwhelming sense of relief that a year-long battle would not be waged by the leaders.
Hall told reporters on Thursday, Oct. 26, that he and Bell — who sit next to one another on the House floor — talked over the last few weeks “about what makes sense for us and for our caucus as a whole,” according to reports.
The three-week odyssey among Republicans in Washington, D.C. this month over selecting a U.S. House speaker to replace the ousted Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also served as an impetus to avoid hostilities that could split the caucus, Hall told the Associated Press.
In addition to Hall being seen as the preferred choice for speaker, Bell would move from the role of majority leader to Hall’s successor as Rules Committee Chairman – a role that wields more power in the legislative process at the General Assembly.
Previous speaker elections among Republicans in 2011 and 2015 were vigorously contested: Thom Tillis defeated Paul “Skip” Stam to win the gavel after Republicans overtook Democrats to win the majority in 2010. At that time, Tillis was seen as the driver behind a resounding victory and was rewarded with the top job. In 2015, Moore defeated five other candidates for the job, some of whom would leave the chamber in the following years.
Hall, 36, is a lawyer from Caldwell County and served as rules chair for the past three years. He is also the first millennial to hold a top leadership position at the state legislature.
In early July, when asked about the possibility of running for speaker, Hall told North State Journal, “What I’ll say to that is a number of our members have asked me to consider doing it… what I’ve told them is if our current speaker decides that he doesn’t want to come back, that we’ll take a look at it and there’ll be a time and place for that.”
On the podcast hosted by Lewis and David, the three leaders were joined by Deputy Majority Leader Brendan Jones (R-Columbus), who would appear to be in line for the job of majority leader succeeding Bell.
Of course, the discussion is moot if Republicans fail to hold their legislative majority in 2024. While political experts say Republicans are projected to do so, reports of an orderly transition of leadership shows that legislative Republicans are indeed planning for the future – and leaving nothing to chance.