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Democrats Regain Majority In N.C. House, Strengthen Grip In Senate

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Democrats appear to have regained their majority in the

state House

and possibly control of the chamber where they've shared power through a historic co-speakership during the past two years.

In the


, Democrats gained one to three seats to strengthen their hold. One of the winning candidate will become the first openly gay legislator in North Carolina.

At least three House Republicans lost their seats Tuesday to Democratic challengers. Two Democratic senators fell to GOP opponents, while another race was separated by only nine votes, according to final, unofficial returns.

Co-speakers led the state House for the past two years in part because Republicans, which ultimately held 62 seats, couldn't unite behind one leader. Now, unofficial totals show Democrats winning 63 of the 120 seats - a net gain of five seats.

Co-Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, declined to discuss whether he will return in January as the sole speaker of the House.

"I have good solid support in my caucus, but I don't dare get out in front of them," Black said.

The other co-speaker, Rep. Richard Morgan, R-Moore, sounded hopeful that he would remain part of the leadership structure.

"It's too close for one party to run" the chamber, Morgan said. "The next General Assembly may not look like this one, but the need for bipartisan collaborative leadership will continue to be essential."

In the Senate, Democrats won 28 of the 50 seats and led narrowly in two others. Democrats led the chamber 27-23 in the current session.

"We feel pretty good tonight," said Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare. "The Republican Party fought awfully hard."

Republican Reps. Sam Ellis and Don Munford of Wake County lost, as did eight-term Rep. Joni Bowie of Guilford County.

Ellis, a six-term lawmaker and thorn in the side of Morgan, lost to former Wake County commissioner Linda Coleman. Coleman had 54 percent to 46 percent for Ellis, with all precincts reporting.

Pricey Harrison, a descendant of Greensboro's Bryan family, led Bowie 57 percent to 43 percent, with all precincts reporting.

Munford, a first-term legislator, lost to Democrat Grier Martin by less than 600 votes with all precincts reporting. Martin is the son of former U.S. Senate candidate D.G. Martin.

Rep. Bonner Stiller, R-Brunswick, held off David Redwine, a former appropriations committee chairman whom Stiller beat two years ago. With all precincts reporting, Stiller had 50 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Redwine.

In a matchup of incumbents, Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, narrowly beat Rep. Wayne Sexton, R-Rockingham, 53 percent to 47 percent, with all precincts reporting unofficial results. They were drawn into the same district during redistricting.

First-term Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, held back Democrat and former judge James Llewellyn. Rep. Phil Haire narrowly beat former Rep. Marge Carpenter, 52 percent to 48 percent.

In the Senate, the GOP knocked off first-term Democratic incumbents Joe Sam Queen of Haywood County and Cecil Hargett of Onslow County.

In the Senate, Hargett lost to Jacksonville car dealer Harry Brown, 52 percent to 45 percent with 90 percent of the precincts reporting.

Queen lost to Republican Keith Presnell of Yancey County. With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, Presnell had 55 percent to 45 percent for Queen.

In New Hanover County, Democrat Julia Boseman narrowly beat first-term Republican Sen. Woody White. Boseman, an openly gay New Hanover commissioner, had 39,991 votes, or 51 percent, while White had 38,056 votes, or 49 percent, according to final, unofficial results.

White ran newspaper ads pointing out that Boseman's campaign had taken donations from out-of-state gay and lesbian groups and individuals.

Basnight said she would be a great asset.

"The people chose the person. I greatly respect the voice of the people," he said.

Jim Testa of Cleveland County lost to Sen. Walter Dalton, D-Rutherford, one of three chief Senate budget writers. With all precincts reporting, Dalton beat Testa 53 percent to 47 percent.

Former Sen. Oscar Harris and incumbent Harris Blake, R-Moore, appeared headed for a recount. With all precincts reporting, the Democrat Harris had 27,862 votes and Blake had 27,853 votes.

In the only Senate race involving incumbents, Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne, beat GOP Sen. Tony Moore of Pitt County. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Kerr had 57 percent to Moore's 43 percent. Moore was elected a Democrat two years ago but changed parties when a new redistricting map harmed his re-election chances.

Eight-term Sen. Bob Carpenter, R-Macon, was trailing Democrat John Snow, 51 percent to 47 percent, with 79 percent of the precincts reporting. The other precincts were delayed while Graham County election officials counted by ballots by hand.

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