The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday January 22nd

Democrats Retain Grip in State House

When the smoke cleared Tuesday night, the Democrats managed to retain their grip on the North Carolina General Assembly - albeit barely in the House.

In the upcoming legislative session the Democrats will still hold a comfortable majority in the N.C. Senate, occupying 35 out of 50 seats. But there will be a much slimmer majority in the N.C. House, where Republicans picked up four seats, bringing their total to 58 to the Democrats' 62.

The slim majority in the House will present challenges to the Democrats, said UNC political science Professor Thad Beyle. "In terms of the state House, it's tightened up, " he said. "That means they're going to have to take time in choosing the next speaker of the House."

Exactly who will lead the state House has not yet been decided, but Beyle said he thinks current speaker, Rep. Jim Black, D-Mecklenberg, is the most likely.

But when the Democrats elected Black as speaker in 1998, controversy erupted that nearly split the party.

Republicans and many black Democrats formed a coalition to put Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake, in the speaker's chair. The move failed by one vote.

N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, was pleased with the results of the N.C. Senate race, said Basnight spokesman Rob Lamme.

"We brought all 32 of our incumbents back and filled the 3 vacant seats with Democrats," Lamme said.

While Senate Democrats had reason to celebrate, Senate Minority Leader Patrick Ballantine, R-New Hanover, said he was disappointed with the overall way the election went for Senate Republicans.

Ballantine said the Republicans' failure to pick up seats was due in large part to Democratic entrenchment. "I think it would be healthy to have a balance of power," he said.

Over on the House side, it was the Republicans who were celebrating.

House Minority Whip Julia Howard, R-Davie, said she was disappointed the Republicans were not able to regain control of the House but was happy about the extra seats the party picked up.

Howard said House Republicans had not yet considered who their leadership might be.

On the opposite side of the aisle, N.C. House Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said he was disconcerted that the Democrats lost seats in the election. Like Howard, Hackney said a slimmer Democratic majority makes bipartisanship more important. "I think it makes it more important to work with people of the opposing party."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.


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