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Conservative GOP Leaders Shocked By Decker's Switch

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Conservative Republicans are shocked by thedecision of one of their own to bolt for the Democratic Party in amove that evens the state House between the two parties.

Discuss Decker's Decision

Rep. Michael Decker of Forsyth County announced Friday he hadswitched his voter registration to Democratic, changing a 61-59Republican lead in the House this coming session to a 60-60split.

The stunning decision hurts GOP hopes of winning the speaker'sjob when the Legislature convenes Wednesday.

Decker also threw his support behind current Speaker Jim Black, who is seeking athird term.

"It's astounding that he would do a thing like this," saidRep. Russell Capps, R-Wake, who shared Decker's views on manyissues.

Decker criticized Black as much as anyone over the lastfour years, Capps said.

"And now he's going to vote for him," Capps said. "Ijust don't understand it."

Decker said Friday "there are conservative Democrats in theHouse, and I'll fit right in with them."

He denied speculation byRepublicans that Black promised him a leadership post in exchangefor his support.

Decker already had opposed the election of Republican caucuscandidate Rep. Leo Daughtry of Johnston County as speaker. BothBlack and Daughtry have dissidents in their respective partiesopposed to their election.

Twenty freshmen Republicans plan to meet Tuesday to reconsidertheir support for Daughtry. Daughtry said he will continue topursue the speakership.

Decker, an 18-year legislator, is best known for opposingschool-based health clinics, supporting the right to carryconcealed handguns and urging fellow Republicans to support anabsolute ban on abortion.

Charona Remillard, 29, a Forsyth Republican, worked on Decker'scampaign last year and attends the same Baptist church he does.

"I'm shocked and incensed," Remillard said. "He had not givenus the courtesy of a phone call. His own party and people who hadworked for him diligently."

Decker is expected to take heat from GOP members in the comingdays. State Republican Party chairman Bill Cobey has scheduled anews conference Monday in Decker's hometown of Walkertown todiscuss the switch.

"I find Rep. Decker's behavior to be irrational and bizarre,"Cobey said in a news release, adding that "this shocking turn ofevents will not go unanswered."

Local party activists have started organizing a picketingcampaign to force Decker to resign. They will be in Raleigh onWednesday with "Impeach Mike Decker" signs, said Joyce Krawiec ofKernersville.

"We have stood in a lot of rain working polls for him for a lotof years," Krawiec said. "I was just outraged that he had soldhis soul for 30 pieces of silver."

Decker, who works as a substitute teacher in public schools, hasreceived lots of support from politically active churches. On arecent Christian Coalition legislative scorecard, Decker was one ofsix House members to score 100 percent.

"He comes from such a religious side of the Republican Party,and now he's going over to the Democratic Party, which supportsabortion and supports the things that he was purportedly against,"said Rep. Jim Gulley, R-Mecklenburg. "And I just don't understandwhat he's thinking."

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