February 16, 2006

Replacing Speaker Black

House Speaker Jim Black's political troubles don't need to be recounted here. The N&O has done a good job. and you can find the news results with a google news search of his name. The more interesting question is who will succeed him as Speaker if he resigns and many observers seem to feel this is only a matter of time. Former Rep. Bill Culpepper was Black's right hand in the legislature. He engineered the last 2 speaker votes as Rules Committee Chairman and was one of the Black's top confidants for the last 3 years. There was supposition for years that Bill aspired to the Speaker seat but he has now left the legislature and is serving on the State Utilities Commission. You have to believe that he would have been a strong candidate for the Speakers job. His biggest drawback is that he serves the same area as the Sen. President Pro Tem Marc Basnight and it is hard to believe that the legislature would have given any one area that much power. Still for a good while E. NC was represented at the highest levels in both chambers. Here is what NC Spin's e-mail newsletter says about the varous contenders.
Some of the more liberal female House members are putting together a strategy, we are told, to put Joe Hackney, House Majority Leader, in as acting Speaker when Black relinquishes his post. Their theory is that even in a temporary capacity Hackney would have an advantage in a full election for Speaker.

But, as we have stated previously, there are others wanting the gavel. The latest names we are hearing is Bill Owens (D-Pasquotank) and Drew Saunders, also a Mecklenburg Democrat. Most observers don't think Owens would have much of a chance, given the fact that he represents much of the same district as does Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight. They believe Saunders probably wouldn't get the nod because he would take orders from Black. The thinking still prevails that Hugh Holliman still has the edge. If Black steps down, Speaker Pro Tem Richard Morgan would assume the podium, something the Dems don't want.

Seasoned observers tell us to watch the Black caucus to see which way the wind is blowing. With 18 members, they hold the cards.

Note the comments about Rep. Billy Owens from Elizabeth City. Bill was almost as influential as Culpepper. It will be interesting to watch. Be sure that Eastern NC will be involved in the fight somehow

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