Local News

Decker Switches to Democrats, Making House Even Split

Posted January 25, 2003 1:52 a.m. EST
Updated April 6, 2011 10:00 a.m. EDT

— Staunchly conservative state Rep. Michael Decker switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat on Friday, splitting the House 60-60.

The move is the latest and most bizarre twist in the contest to select a speaker to lead the House as the General Assembly prepares to begin a new session next week.

In announcing his decision, Decker said that he will support current House Speaker Jim Black for another term in the post, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

"There are a lot of good, conservative Democrats, and I think I will feel right at home with them," Decker told the newspaper.

Decker said his decision came after talks with Black and his supporters, but that he was not offered any inducements, like powerful committee chairs, to change parties.

He did say that the decision should give him standing among Democrats.

Decker added that House Minority Leader Leo Daughtry, the leading contender for the job among Republicans, is not "the man for the job."

Decker has long aligned himself with social conservatives in the GOP, advocating school prayer and cutting money for abortion.

An 18-year veteran of the House, Decker had been a registered Democrat before seeking elected office.

Told of Decker's switch, Rep. Frank Mitchell, R-Iredell, a close ally of Daughtry, accused the Forsyth County legislator of selling out his party to become speaker pro-tem, the second-ranking position in the House.

"They are welcomed to him, I guess," Mitchell said.

Decker's switch keeps Black's hopes alive for winning a third term as speaker. Even so, it does not assure his election, even Black he can gain Republican votes because of some dissidents within his own party.

Republicans, meanwhile, have been divided over Daughtry's candidacy, and several other GOP candidates have emerged.

Decker did not immediately return telephone messages seeking additional comment.