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Republicans Call For Decker's Resignation As Speaker's Race Heats Up

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RALEIGH, N.C. — With just two days left before the North Carolina House of Representatives begins the 2003 session, it's still not clear who will be speaker.

What is clear is that the speaker's race could go past a single vote for the first time in nearly 100 years.

There is no clear front-runner in the speaker's race because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have enough votes to push their candidate over the top. With a 60-60 split, there is no room for error.

When Republican Michael Decker of Forsyth County switched parties last week and announced he was voting for Democrat Jim Black for speaker, the drama began building toward a Wednesday showdown on the House floor.

Angry Republicans stood in the cold in the Forsyth County town of Walkertown on Monday to demand that Decker resign his seat. But the converted Democrat made no apologies.

"I'm still very conservative," Decker said, "and remain so."

State Rep. Sam Ellis of Garner said Decker must resign because he no longer represents the Republicans who elected him.

"They need a Republican up there that will carry forward the will of the people," Ellis said.

The race for Speaker is highly-charged. Republican Leo Daughtry often talks with Speaker Jim Black during legislative sessions. Now Daughtry wants's Black's job.

Decker's secretary at his Raleigh office has taken the brunt of the public's outrage. Linda Hines said she's received nearly 800 e-mails about her boss's sudden party switch.

From the Democrats' side of the House, first-term member Bernard Allen of Raleigh said he's glad Decker's vote is for Black.

"There is a lot at stake," Allen said, "I'm delighted that Mr. Decker decided to come over to the Democratic party."

There's not much Republicans can do about Decker's party switch except to apply enormous public pressure to get him to resign. The state Democratic Party said the vindictiveness of the state Republican Party knows no bounds.

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