RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) responded Wednesday to criticism leveled by a fellow Republican just a day earlier.
Representative Justin Burr (R-Stanly) had harsh words for his party's House leader in a press release announcing his re-election.
"Rather than build on the success of former Speaker Thom Tillis, the current Speaker has chosen to return to days reminiscent of the unsuccessful and toxic governing style of former House Speakers Jim Black and Richard Morgan," Burr said.
PREVIOUS ARTICLE: Stanly Co. lawmaker slams Speaker Tim Moore in re-election announcement
Burr said the Speaker concentrated power among a small group of Republican allies and Democrats. He also criticized the slow pace of the 2015 session—among the longest in recent history—and questioned Moore's motives behind calling a two-week recess the chamber took this summer.
Tim Moore responds
On Wednesday, in a statement to On Your Side Investigates, Moore pushed back with criticism of his own.
"Unfortunately, Rep. Burr has chosen to be ineffective and irrelevant this session, and frankly - his district deserves better," Moore said. "The people of Stanly County deserve a representative who is ready and willing to work in their best interests, not one that engages in petty political antics."
Moore defended the House's accomplishments under his leadership.
"I am proud of the bottom-up leadership style I have implemented since taking over the Speaker's gavel: empowering Members to make more decisions at the committee levels, and hosting free and open discussions on the House floor," Moore said.
"These facts remain: Republican leadership in the House tackled long-overdue Medicaid reform, made North Carolina more competitive than ever through continued tax reform, saved Teaching Assistant jobs and Driver Ed, and passed a conservative budget. We increased education funding and lowered taxes for hardworking North Carolinians," Moore said. "This year the State also finally paid off its debt to the federal government and had a surplus of over $400 million. Since Republicans took control of the Legislature – just five years ago – our State has done nothing but grow and prosper."
Moore also pointed to a letter Burr sent in November 2014 announcing his bid for Speaker that, he said, contradicted the praise Burr had of former Speaker Thom Tillis in his announcement for re-election Tuesday.
In the letter, Burr promised that, as Speaker, he would ensure every member of the caucus had a voice; do a better job of planning and preparing for session; communicating with both caucus members and the public; and to instill trust within the caucus. The letter does not specifically criticize Tillis by name.
Burr doubles down
Burr doubled down in his criticism of the Speaker upon hearing of Moore's comments Wednesday.
"This type of response from Tim Moore is exactly what I am talking about, it sounds like a vengeful and petty response from Jim Black or Richard Morgan. The Speaker doesn't like for members to disagree with him, and unless you're willing to completely cave on your principles, he has no interest in working with you," Burr said. "Unfortunately the Speaker has been working to choke out members of our caucus that he doesn't like because we refuse to be a rubber stamp for his good ol' boy agenda."
"My re-election press release lays out clear facts of the Speaker's failures this year. His only response is to use his government email account to politically attack me and say my District deserves better, well I believe the state deserves a speaker that puts the people first, not his personal friends and special interest," Burr said.
House leadership weighs in
Reached by phone Wednesday, House Majority Leader Mike Hager (R-Rutherford) said he viewed his role as a caucus leader as one that requires him to support all members of the caucus.
"I would never lay into a member and determine what is good for his district or bad for his district," Hager said.
Hager said he prefers to hear criticism from members of his own part over praise and compliments.
"I want folks to tell me what I'm doing wrong. I appreciate the feedback," Hager said. "It's a sad day when we don't want to hear the negative results of our actions."
The majority leader declined to say whether Moore's comments about Burr were appropriate but did say Burr was a valuable member of the caucus, like every other House Republican.
"He's really the leader of the conservative movement in this caucus," Hager said. "Justin, to me and from what I've seen him do, is very effective."