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The Daily Tar Heel

Republican to Vie for Speaker Post

By Jennifer Hagin

The slim Democratic majority in the N.C. House of Representatives might provide an unusual opportunity for a member of the minority party to become speaker.

Rep. Connie Wilson, R-Mecklenburg, recently announced her intention to seek the speaker post, making her the race's third candidate.

The Democrats have a four-seat majority in the House, holding 62 seats to the Republicans' 58. Two Democrats - incumbent speaker Rep. Jim Black, D-Mecklenberg, and Rep. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe - are also seeking the position, possibly splitting the party's vote.

Both Democratic speaker candidates said a Republican would not control the speaker position.

But Wilson said she decided to seek the post because a member of the minority party had a chance at victory if two Democrats were running.

"Even though we're in the minority, the numbers give us a unique opportunity to run," she said. "(I plan) to solidify the Republicans in caucus and develop a coalition between interested Democrats."

Wilson said she was confident her campaign could be successful.

"It's not going to be easy, but it's definitely possible," she said.

A coalition of Republicans and black Democrats trying to increase their power in the House nearly defeated Black in 1998. Black beat out Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake, by only one vote.

But Black said he was confident he will be re-elected Jan. 24 because he has commitments from Democrats that they will vote for him and has been contacted by possible Republican supporters.

"With the 54 (votes) I already have, I expect to get 61 votes or more," he said. "I'm the only one with 54 commitments."

Black said he did not see Wilson as a threat. "Connie Wilson may get her (vote) and three or four others, but I don't see many more," he said.

Nesbitt said a Republican candidate and multiple Democratic choices increased his own chances of winning.

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