The Latest: Hunt leaving to others to decide on ballot probe
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on the North Carolina legislature opening its next two-year session (all times local):
A new North Carolina House member says it’s up to election officials to decide whether more investigation is needed of mail-in absentee ballots cast in her close legislative race last fall.
Democratic Rep. Rachel Hunt of Mecklenburg County was seated Wednesday with the other legislators who won in November. A conservative Christian group late Tuesday had asked the chamber and Speaker Tim Moore to prevent her from taking her seat after providing documentation about what it called ballot “irregularities” in the 103rd House District. Hunt defeated incumbent Republican Bill Brawley by just 68 votes.
GOP Rep. David Lewis said Hunt was seated because she was duly certified as the winner by the state elections board and secretary of state. Lewis said there are procedures to remove a member if investigations later show the election was significantly tainted.
Hunt is the daughter of former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt.
Republican lawmakers re-elected to lead the North Carolina House and Senate are urging colleagues to reach consensus in approving policy and legislation during the next two years.
The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to elect Sen. Phil Berger of Eden as Senate leader for a fifth term, while the House picked Rep. Tim Moore of Kings Mountain as speaker for a third term. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson of Raleigh ran against Moore.
In acceptance speeches, Berger and Moore said they hoped legislators can find common ground on issues such as education, hurricane relief and government efficiency. Democrats won enough seats in November to end the GOP’s veto-proof majorities, giving them more leverage.
The House re-elected Rep. Sarah Stevens of Mount Airy as speaker pro tempore — the chamber’s No. 2 election position, while Sen. Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine was picked the Senate’s deputy leader.
The North Carolina General Assembly has opened its two-year session with Republicans still in charge but Democrats making enough gains in November to give them and Gov. Roy Cooper leverage at the policy negotiating table.
The House and Senate gaveled in at midday Wednesday for one-day ceremonial and organizational meetings. Members were expected to re-elect House Speaker Tim Moore and Sen. Phil Berger to the top leadership positions in their respective chambers.
The 170 people elected in the fall elections are being seated, including Democrat Rachel Hunt of Mecklenburg County. A right-leaning group late Tuesday asked the House to refuse to seat Hunt because of absentee ballot questions in her district, but GOP Rep. David Lewis said Wednesday no one would block Hunt from joining the House.