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The Daily Tar Heel

Black chosen sole speaker of House

RALEIGH, Jan. 27 - The representatives seated in the rear of the N.C. House on Wednesday were determined to be heard.

Twenty Republicans - 14 of them seated in the back row of the chamber - voted against Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, as sole speaker of the House.

Black still garnered enough votes - 100 in all - to assume the role for a record-tying fourth time during the first day of the General Assembly, ending a two-year power share between the parties.

After the 2004 elections, the Democrats held a six-vote majority in the chamber, 63-57.

After one week of stalemate in 2003, the House elected two co-speakers, Black and Rep. Richard Morgan, R-Moore.

"The relationship they built up ... has given both of them some confidence that they can make (a coalition government) work," said Ferrel Guillory, director of UNC's Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public Life.

The first step to continuing this coalition government was the historic move of giving Morgan the second-in-command position - speaker pro tem.

The slot, in the past, almost always has been given to a high-ranking majority member.

"This 2005 session brings a new twist in the ribbon of coalition government," Morgan said as he accepted the post. "At its core (are) the principles that guided the 2003 chamber."

Morgan will enjoy new dimensions of power in a traditionally ceremonial role.

Under Black's watch, he will be able to appoint several committee chairmen of his own choosing.

"Clearly what's gone on here is Jim Black, with the agreement of the Democratic caucus, has tried to keep Morgan and his allies part of the action," Guillory said.

He said this move could help Black in the future when he's in a crunch and needs Morgan's moderate Republican allies for votes.

But while most Republicans affirmed Black and Morgan's election, the vote didn't go off without a hitch.

One voice from the back row rang out in opposition as Rep. William Culpepper, D-Chowan, made the motion to elect Black and Morgan.

Rep. John Rhodes, R-Mecklenburg, tried to stall the vote that would approve Black and Morgan's election.

Although Rhodes was the only representative to speak during the motion, others made their views known during the roll call vote for the power share.

Guillory said that even though Black and Morgan have built a coalition, House politics still should prove volatile throughout the session.

"Though they have built a personal relationship and their politics are relatively similar, one's still a Democrat, and one's a Republican," he said.

"They are not the same thing."


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