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Black's Statement to Democratic Representatives

Posted December 13, 2006

Dear House Democratic Members,

As I’ve said many times before, I have been deeply honored and humbled to serve as speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives since 1999. As speaker and minority leader during the last 12 years, I have always fought to make education our No. 1 priority, and I’m proud of our many accomplishments on behalf of the people of our great state.

I’m also extremely proud of each and every member of the House Democratic Caucus. This year was a great year for our caucus – we had an extremely successful session this summer, where we passed every item on our legislative agenda plus made progress on numerous other important issues, and we increased our majority to 68 seats on Nov. 7.

We remained united and focused on our priorities of improving education for every child, making health care more affordable and accessible for every North Carolinian, creating good paying jobs for our workers, reducing crime in our neighborhoods, and protecting our environment. This success would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of every member of our caucus. I cannot adequately express my appreciation for your ongoing diligence and commitment, which I am confident will allow us to make further progress during the 2007 session of the General Assembly.

Unlike the Republican Caucus, the House Democratic Caucus not only allows, but we promote, diversity and the free expression of our individual opinions and ideas. I’m extremely proud of the fact that we’ve remained focused on the real issues that matter most to the families of North Carolina and have not been sidetracked by our opponents and the media. Our efforts have made a real difference in the lives of every man, woman and child in our state, and now, we must stick together in order to continue moving North Carolina ahead in the future.

When I took on the role of Minority Leader back in 1995, our caucus was at its lowest point in our state’s history. We went down to only 52 Democrats in the House, but I was determined to help our caucus rebuild and regain the majority. In 1996, we gained six seats to take us back to 59 members, and in 1998 we elected six more Democrats to put us at 66.

In January of 1999, I was honored to be elected as your speaker. From that day forward, I always treated every member of the House with respect and dignity. I always had an open door policy and was available to listen to members about their concerns or ideas. I made it a priority to keep our very diverse caucus together by giving every group within our caucus a seat at the table.

This past year has been a tough year, not only for me and my family, but for all of us – but through it all, we remained united, we stayed focused on our priorities, and we kept our eyes on the prize.

I’ve dedicated the last 25 years of my life to public service and promoting the issues important to not only the people of Mecklenburg County, but to every North Carolinian. It’s been an honor to serve as minority leader and now speaker, and I’m proud of all that we’ve accomplished together.

But now I believe that I can best serve our state, and the House Democratic Caucus, by removing myself from the race for speaker during the 2007-08 session. The General Assembly is not, and should not, be about any one individual. All 170 legislators are here to do a job and represent the people of their district. I am hopeful that the media will now focus its attention again on the important work we do in Raleigh and in our districts, instead of just being focused on me.

I would now like to play a slightly different role – someone who keeps the House unified and focused on our priorities, offers advice based on the experience I have gained over the years, and helps determine where we go from here, including who will be the next speaker. We’re extremely blessed to have many bright people in the House Democratic Caucus, and now we must determine the best leadership team to lead us in the future.

I look forward to working with you in the coming weeks and months to ensure that the progress we’ve made in the past is only the beginning of what is to come. With a strong and united caucus, we can develop and pass another bold and aggressive agenda next year that ensures every family in North Carolina can see their children grow, prosper and reach their full potential.

Thank you again for your continued friendship and support.

Sincerely,

Speaker Jim Black
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