Black's first test: caucus

Staff WritersDecember 19, 2002 

The first test for House Speaker Jim Black's hopes of keeping his leadership post will come Jan. 9 when the 59 House Democrats plan to caucus in Raleigh.

Black, who is seeking a third term in the post, will not only need all of his Democrat colleagues behind him, he'll need to steal two Republicans as well.

The GOP took back the House in the last election as 61 Republicans won election compared to 59 Democrats.

The opportunity may be there to steal the House away from GOP control. Some Republican members have said they will not support House Minority Leader Leo Daughtry of Smithfield, who captured 36 votes in the GOP caucus.

The latest talk among legislators is that no other Democrats are mounting a serious challenge to Black at the caucus. But there is speculation that one or two may be considering a vote for a GOP candidate in exchange for chairmanships of powerful committees.

Daughtry, for example, may need Democrat support to make up for the possible loss of support from GOP rivals such as state Rep. Richard Morgan of Pinehurst.

Meanwhile, names of potential GOP alternatives to Daughtry are popping up like daisies in springtime.

Two more: state Rep. Joe Kiser, a retired sheriff from Vale whom House Republicans elected their majority leader last month, and state Rep. Jerry Dockham, an insurance agent from Denton.

Kiser's answer to questions about the chatter was essentially: Who, me?

"There's been a lot of talk, but no one has told me that," Kiser said. "I'm still working for the caucus nominee. That's my job as the majority leader."

Daughtry has probably built on the support that got him the nomination, Kiser said.

OK. So will Daughtry have enough votes to be elected speaker Jan. 29?

"Well, I'm not a prophet, so I can't answer that question," Kiser said.

So many options.

House Republicans will caucus again Jan. 19 to try to sort out some of their leadership questions.

State Rep. David Miner, a Cary Republican is sure of one thing: Black won't be able to pick off any GOP House members.

The Republican caucus in committed to electing a Republican speaker," Miner said. "That's the good news for the Republican party. Everyone feels it would be an injustice not to go with the results of the Nov. 5 election."

To be continued ...

Bass joins Miller team

U.S. Rep.-elect Brad Miller has hired Stephanie Bass of Raleigh, a well-known figure in state government and Triangle political circles, to be director of his 13th Congressional District office.

Bass will be in charge of operations in the congressional offices Miller plans to set up in Raleigh and Greensboro. The district offices will focus on constituent service, community outreach and working with local governments.

Bass was a press aide for Hunt during his first two terms and worked on his 1980 re-election campaign and 1984 Senate campaign. Her work during the last two Hunt terms included a stint as chief of staff to the secretary of health and human resources.

Lately, Bass has worked as a consultant, but she decided to put that aside to work for Miller.

"I really wasn't looking for a job," Bass said. "This is really a great opportunity. It's a great chance to help shape a new district, and it's a great chance for me to be more involved in federal issues."

By staff writers Lynn Bonner and Dan Kane. Bonner can be reached at 829-4821 or at lbonner@newsobserver.com.

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