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Despite Ethical Questions, Black's Hold On House Speaker Chair Remains Strong

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Jim Black  (Generic)
RALEIGH, N.C. — In his record fourth term as House Speaker, Jim Black is known as a master fundraiser, political deal maker, and consensus builder, but ethical questions about the people linked to him may test his power base.

Kevin Geddings, Black's pick to serve on the lottery commission, resigned after he failed to disclose he was getting paid by a lottery vendor. Plus, Meredith Norris, Black's former political director, is accused of violating lobbying laws.

"He's been damaged and his judgement has been called into question," said state Republican Party Chief of Staff Bill Peaslee.

Peaslee and others are closely watching where the federal subpoenaes demanding information from Black take the investigation. Peaslee concedes, barring a criminal charge or resignation, Black's hold on the speaker's chair is safe at least through the 2006 session.

"Within that chamber, he probably has as much control as he's ever had," he said.

Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, said Democrats are not abandoning their leader.

"I haven't heard anybody come out and say Speaker Black has done a thing wrong," he said.

Faison said Black has survived allegations of video poker ties for years. He also expects Black to weather the current controversy, too.

"I don't see this as impacting either the job he's doing or his ability to continue to do a good job," he said.

With new developments in the case each week, the speaker's future remains in the spotlight.

"When voters go to vote, the key thing they look at is who do they trust," Peaslee said.

The 70-year-old Black said he will cooperate with state and federal investigators. He intends to run for re-election next fall and plans to seek the speaker's chair again in 2007.


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