Republican from the extreme right wing joins race for NC House Speaker

By: - July 25, 2023 5:45 pm
Rep. Keith Kidwell speaks into a microphone

Rep. Keith Kidwell, chairman of the Freedom Caucus – Photo: feed

Rep. Keith Kidwell announced on Facebook that he is running for NC House Speaker.

Kidwell, a Beaufort County Republican, is serving his third term in the House. He is a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, a group that often takes positions more conservative than other Republican legislators.

The position of House Speaker is one of the most powerful in the state. House members vote for the office holder.

House Speaker Tim Moore, who has held the job since 2015, has said that this is final term in the position.

Kidwell was the primary sponsor this year of a bill that would have banned nearly all abortions from conception. Under the bill, a person who performed, induced, or attempted an abortion would be guilty of a felony and face a civil penalty of at least $100,000.

The legislature went on to pass a law banning most abortions after 12 weeks gestation. During the House debate on that law, Kidwell was overheard referring to a Black female legislator who talked about her decision to have an abortion as belonging to the “Church of Satan.”

Kidwell lost his position as deputy whip in the House GOP caucus over the remark. He remains senior chairman of the House Finance Committee.

Kidwell joins at least two House Republican colleagues who have announced they are running for Speaker, Rules Committee Chairman Destin Hall and Republican majority leader John Bell.

So far in his House career, Kidwell has promoted suspicion over election results and pushed to inspect voting machines for modems. The Freedom Caucus announced in 2021 that it wanted to open Durham County’s voting machines, despite no evidence of problems. Their plan did not move forward because the law did not allow it.

Kidwell vehemently opposed COVID-19 safety measures, telling colleagues that Gov. Roy Cooper could not make him wear a mask. He was hospitalized and treated for COVID-19 in August 2021.

He was one of 24 House Republicans who voted against Medicaid expansion in March, after Republican leaders in both chambers endorsed it.

Speaking about “government overreach” last year, Kidwell said, “That’s one of the main reasons I’m here. I don’t trust my government.”

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Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.