RALEIGH, N.C. — For months, House Speaker Jim Black has taken fire in the campaign and ethics controversy linked to him. State and federal agents have investigated his campaign finances and political influence, and a grand jury called in various people connected to him.
Despite the scandal, Black fully intends to return to his power position next year.
"I've been buried every year, several times a year for the past eight years," said Black.
Political consultant Joe Sinsheimer led the charge to oust the speaker, even creating the Web site
opposing his leadership position. He said Black still has a tight hold on House Democrats. However, Sinsheimer said he sees plenty of political turmoil, since the investigation is still ongoing.
"There's a leadership vacuum underneath the speaker," said Sinsheimer. "Should the speaker be indicted, there will be a free-for-all or Donnybrook to see who will replace him."
If there's a shakeup, some of the top Democratic contenders to replace him at his post are Majority Leader Joe Hackney, D-Orange, or Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson.
When asked if he was interested in the House speaker position, Holliman said, "I'm interested in any kind of leadership role, whether it be speaker or other roles."
Jim Crawford, D-Granville, is another potential candidate. Bill Faison, D-Caswell, has expressed interest in the top job. Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, a prominent Black supporter, is also a possibility.
"I don't look that far ahead," said Cole. "We have a speaker right now, and I'm supporting him."
For now, Democrats are standing behind Black -- a man who's battle-savvy and watching his back.
"When you're in the corner office, there are other people who want the corner office," said Black. "So, you just have to let that bounce off."
Of course, there are plenty of other variables in play. For instance, Democrats have to maintain the majority to keep the speaker's chair. That will be up to voters in November.