Local News

Conservative GOP Leaders Shocked By Decker's Switch

Posted January 26, 2003 12:24 p.m. EST

— Conservative Republicans are shocked by the decision of one of their own to bolt for the Democratic Party in a move that evens the state House between the two parties.

Discuss Decker's Decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He denied speculation by Republicans that Black promised him a leadership post in exchange for his support.

Decker already had opposed the election of Republican caucus candidate Rep. Leo Daughtry of Johnston County as speaker. Both Black and Daughtry have dissidents in their respective parties opposed to their election.

Twenty freshmen Republicans plan to meet Tuesday to reconsider their support for Daughtry. Daughtry said he will continue to pursue the speakership.

Decker, an 18-year legislator, is best known for opposing school-based health clinics, supporting the right to carry concealed handguns and urging fellow Republicans to support an absolute ban on abortion.

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

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

Decker is expected to take heat from GOP members in the coming days. State Republican Party chairman Bill Cobey has scheduled a news conference Monday in Decker's hometown of Walkertown to discuss the switch.

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

Local party activists have started organizing a picketing campaign to force Decker to resign. They will be in Raleigh on Wednesday with "Impeach Mike Decker" signs, said Joyce Krawiec of Kernersville.

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

Decker, who works as a substitute teacher in public schools, has received lots of support from politically active churches. On a recent Christian Coalition legislative scorecard, Decker was one of six 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 supports abortion and supports the things that he was purportedly against," said Rep. Jim Gulley, R-Mecklenburg. "And I just don't understand what he's thinking."