Local News

State Board Certifies Black's Victory in House Race

Posted November 28, 2006

— The state Board of Elections on Tuesday unanimously agreed to certify House Speaker Jim Black as the winner in his tight re-election race against Republican challenger Hal Jordan.

Black led Jordan by about 30 votes after last week's recount. The dispute centered around one Mecklenburg County precinct that covered two different legislative districts. Hundreds of people were allowed to vote in the Black-Jordan election even though they don't live in that district.

Jordan's attorney argued the ballot mistakes warrant a whole new election. As the State Board of Elections listened, Black's attorney countered that by giving Jordan every legitimate vote in the precinct, Black would still win by a comfortable margin.

"The margin would be on the order of 200 votes. So, it's impossible Mr. Jordan won the election," said John Wallace, Black's attorney.

The board agreed it had found nothing to indicate that the margin would not hold up despite the voting problems.

"We know who the winner is, so there is no real point in going to the expense of a new election when we know who received the most votes on Election Day," said Chuck Winfree, a member of the State Board of Elections.

"We thought the odds were a little long coming in this hearing that the board would adopt our position. The letter of the law indicates that, if you can't get a correct vote total, that you generally call for a new election," Jordan said. "Do they follow the law, or do they interpret the law pretty loosely? Certainly, logically, from a mathematical perspective, they've got a point."

Black was not present for the hearing, but he said in a statement that he was pleased with the ruling and looks forward to the next legislative session, which begins in January.

Jordan told reporters after the board's vote that he would decide within the next two days whether to appeal the ruling to Superior Court.

Also pending is whether Black will keep his job as House speaker if the board's ruling stands.

Black has come under intense scrutiny and criticism in recent months for campaign-finance violations and his ties to former lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings and former aide Meredith Norris, both of whom have been convicted -- Geddings on fraud charges and Norris on a lobbying violation -- in connection with the effort to launch a state-run lottery.

Former state Rep. Michael Decker also recently called Black a "co-conspirator" in a 3-year-old bribery scheme. As long as prosecutors do not indict Black on corruption charges, even some of Black's most outspoken critics said he is a leading contender to keep his job.

Black has denied any wrongdoing.

"Short of an indictment by either the state or federal government(s), Jim Black is likely to be re-elected speaker," political consultant Joe Sinsheimer said.

"The worst thing you could do in politics in North Carolina during this era is underestimate Jim Black," political consultant Brad Crone said.
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