The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday January 29th

N.C. House Speaker Agrees to Bipartisanship

But this bipartisanship is not a completely selfless act on Black's part -- it might be a necessary move for him to retain the speaker's post.

The Democrats have a four-seat majority in the House, and Black has competition from members of his own party and Republicans. Rep. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, and Rep. Connie Wilson, R-Mecklenburg, also are running for speaker.

Danny Lineberry, a spokesman for Black, said this is not the first time Black has shared power with the Republicans.

"(In 1998), the three Republicans who voted for him were all named committee chairs," Lineberry said.

In the 1998 session, black Democrats and most Republicans, dissatisfied with the distribution of committee assignments, banded together and tried to elect Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake, speaker.

But Orange County Democrats Rep. Verla Insko and House Speaker Pro Tem Joe Hackney, had mixed feelings on the proposed power sharing.

Insko said the almost even split in the House will make bipartisanship mandatory. "When a bill gets to the floor, it's going to be hard for the Democrats to pass a bill by themselves, and it's going to be hard for the Republicans to pass a bill by themselves," Insko said. "It makes sense for us to be working together."

Insko said she trusts Black's judgment in choosing committee heads. "He will pick the right people," she said.

But Hackney was more impartial.

"I don't think (power sharing) is either helpful or hurtful," he said.

"It is the same way it was last time," Hackney said. "There's nothing new happening here."

And some Republicans welcomed Black's proposal.

Rep. Jim Gulley, R-Mecklenburg, one of three Republicans who voted for Black in 1998, would not confirm that he was voting for Black again but added, "Jim Black is still a friend of mine."

Black rewarded Gulley and the other two Republicans, Rep. Charles Buchanan and Rep. Steve Wood, for their 1998 votes by naming them committee co-chairmen.

"I had a choice between a conservative Democrat and a liberal Democrat," Gulley said. "I chose Jim Black."

Gulley said while Black rewarded him, he was chastised by fellow Republicans in the legislature for crossing party lines. "(Republican leaders) tried to punish me for my vote," he said. "They found someone to run against me in the primary."

But Gulley said he thinks more Republicans will vote for Black in spite of the backlash. "I think they'll stand up for (Black) and be counted."

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

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