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Friday December 2nd

GOP Leader Faces Fight for Speaker

Rep. Connie Wilson, R-Mecklenburg, whom Daughtry defeated for the Republican nomination in a 36-20 vote, said although Daughtry was victorious, he does not have enough votes within his party to gain the highest House position.

"There are enough people saying under no circumstance will they vote for Daughtry," Wilson said. "It guarantees he won't be the next speaker. People who have worked with Daughtry for years for some reason don't want to vote for him."

Daughtry, the House minority leader, will face House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, who is seeking re-election, and Rep. Richard Morgan, R-Moore, a former House minority leader who plans to run in January as a bipartisan candidate.

The House speaker has the responsibility of making committee appointments and setting the legislative agenda.

With Republicans holding only a slim 61-59 majority in the House, the speaker election could swing any way, said Ferrel Guillory, director of UNC's Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public Life.

"The vote for speaker wasn't completely settled by the vote in the Republican caucus," he said. "The nomination gives (Daughtry) a strong claim to speaker, but I think there is still time for intraparty and interparty negotiation."

Guillory added that Black, known as a consensus-builder, remains a strong candidate for House speaker. "(Black) tried not to move on things until he could assemble the majority," he said. "He tried to give the House room to speak, debate, to offer ideas -- very pragmatic."

Black spokesman Danny Lineberry said Black is confident he will remain in his position, largely through appeals to legislators on both sides of the aisle. "He will be working until January 29 to build a coalition to remain speaker of the House."

But Lineberry said Black will not disclose which lawmakers would support his bid for the post. "He said publicly he will not discuss conversations with (legislators). They will remain confidential."

Some legislators, however, openly have expressed their support for Black.

Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said that Black has the votes necessary for a successful bid and that he is confident Daughtry will not rally enough support to become the next speaker. "It seems likely from statements of other members of his caucus (that Daughtry will not win). He has no support from Democrats."

Morgan said he thinks he, rather than Daughtry, will be able to appeal to both parties in the race for speaker.

"I don't think he can get elected as speaker," he said. "I will talk to Democrats and Republicans. We ought to build coalitions that will govern into the future. I think I work well with Democrats. It ought to be pretty scary to Democrats if there were a Daughtry speaker."

Morgan said his reasons for opposing Daughtry are simple. "I care about my party," he said. "I care about my state."

Morgan said additional concerns likely will surface during the election process but declined to comment on their nature.

Daughtry could not be reached for comment at press time.

But Rep. George Holmes, R-Yadkin, who nominated Daughtry, spoke favorably of him, reiterating that he is confident Daughtry will win the necessary votes.

"He has the majority of the caucus, and there are some Democrats that will vote for him," Holmes said. "He has proved himself as a House minority and majority leader. He is capable and works hard."

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

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