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Allen's Replacement Could Threaten House Speaker's Position

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In a unanimous vote, Wake County Democrats Wednesday picked longtime state representative and former House Speaker Dan Blue to replace Rep. Bernard Allen in the General Assembly.

Allen, D-Wake, died Oct. 13 of complications from a mild stroke. He was running unopposed in District 33 in Southeast Raleigh for a third term.

Blue will complete the remaining two months of Allen's unexpired term and receive votes for Allen on the Nov. 7 ballot. Because Allen was unopposed, Blue will have the job through 2008.

Democrats believe Blue has the kind of clout that could unseat current House Speaker Jim Black when the Legislature reconvenes in late January. Black's hold on power could be in jeaopardy. He is linked to several people charged or convicted in an ongoing public corruption investigation but has not been charged with a crime.

Blue served as a state representative for 19 years until 2002. He also was House Speaker from 1991 to 1994 and was the first black person to hold the position in North Carolina.

In 2002, he unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Since then, Blue has worked at his law firm in Raleigh.

Blue would not say Wednesday whether he intended to seek the speaker's position.

"I've had titles behind my name. I've had initials behind my name. That's not the most critical thing," Black said.

If Blue decides to run for House speaker, it would be a rematch of the 1999 race in which Blue lost to Black by one vote.

At least four other candidates had expressed interest in filling Allen's seat, including Allen's son, Bernard Allen II. But he gave his support to Blue on Wednesday.

"Yes, I wanted it badly, but the community spoke, and we need to support what the community wanted," Allen said.

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