Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Pamlico, chair of the North Carolina House’s conservative Freedom Caucus, has declared his intent to run for House speaker to succeed Speaker Tim Moore. First elected to the House in 2015, Moore has said he will not run again. Moore set the chamber’s record at five terms as speaker.

“We need to get back to limited constitutional government,” said Kidwell of his plan to run.

One of the most conservative members of the NC House, Kidwell introduced a bill this session to ban virtually all abortions in North Carolina. Ultimately, the legislature passed Senate Bill 20, a bill restricting abortion after 12 weeks, or the first trimester.

After floor debate over the bill, Kidwell suggested to colleagues that a lawmaker who’d had an abortion attends a “Church of Satan.” Kidwell relinquished his leadership role as a deputy whip after that comment was made public.

Kidwell maintains that SB20 was not conservative enough and did not go far enough. He tells Carolina Journal that he believes he is best to lead the House in a more conservative direction, as he also criticized planned efforts to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.

Republicans will make their selection for House Speaker shortly after the 2024 election and before the next legislative session. Other likely candidates could include Majority Leader John Bell of Wayne County; Rep. Jason Saine, R- Lincoln; and Rules Chair Rep. Destin Hall, R-Caldwell.

Kidwell is in his third term representing Pamlico, Dare, Beaufort, and Hyde counties in eastern North Carolina.