The legislature is now back in action. Members were sworn into office this week and the General Assembly official opened the 2019-2020 session the legislature on Wednesday. They also elected new leaders.
Tim Moore was re-elected Speaker of the House. All the Republicans voted for him but two Democrats crossed party lines to support him. Representatives Billy Richardson and Elmer Floyd both voted for Moore and both are from Fayetteville. I’m not sure what’s in the water down there but I hope they get it cleaned up soon.
I don’t know why they would support the ethically challenged Moore. He’s one of the architects of HB2 and he’s been a staunch supporter of voter suppression measures and gerrymandering. Both Floyd and Richardson are in safe Democratic districts. They don’t need Republican support to win re-election. In November, Floyd won his race by almost 50 points and Richardson dispatched his opponent by more than 13.
I suspect they have some sort of beef with the Democratic leadership, but voting with Republicans is misplaced anger. Their obligation is to their constituents and they were re-elected, in part, to hold Republicans like Moore accountable. Sending some message to the Democratic leadership by supporting Moore is both disrespectful of their voters and airing dirty laundry in public. It’s not helpful to what Democrats need to accomplish.
However, they may have cut some sort of deal with the Speaker so he can claim bi-partisan support. If that’s so, then they’ve betrayed their caucus for personal gain. That’s not okay.
Both men have opened themselves up to the possibility of primary challenges and given potential opponents plenty of ammunition. The 2020 primary will be huge with North Carolina front and center in the presidential contest. Candidates with the most fired up supporters will be the most successful. It’s hard to fire up the base when you supported the GOP leadership.
That said, it’s the house leadership’s job to keep their caucus in line. They need to figure out how to discipline members who stray. Democrats are still solidly in the minority and their power will lie in their ability to stick together.
Finally, I’m not suggesting that every Democrat vote with the caucus on every bill. Different districts have different needs and constituencies. But a vote on house leadership has no impact on constituents or Fayetteville. It just gave Republicans a bit of fodder in claiming bipartisan support among members.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >