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Conflict Within Republican Party Could Affect State Elections

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RALEIGH, N.C. — As state Democrats struggle with Speaker Jim Black's campaign finance controversy, Republicans are coping with infighting.

The Republican Legislative Majority is targeting a handful of fellow Republican lawmakers with negative mailings that link Rep. Rick Eddins, R-Wake, among other lawmakers, to Black.

In 2003, Eddins backed a split speakership between Black and former House Speaker Richard Morgan. The agreement caused a rift for Republicans -- many who believe strongly that Morgan sold out to the Democrats.

The lawmakers being targeted say the group is attempting to tie them unfairly to Black, who is under investigation for campaign finance violations.

One of the targets, former House Speaker Richard Morgan, filed a formal complaint with the State Board of Elections, claiming the mailers are funded by illegal corporate money.

Former lawmaker and retail executive Art Pope makes no apology for his financial backing of the Republican Legislative Majority. He disagrees with Morgan's complaint.

"It's every right under the First Amendment and North Carolina statutes to inform voters how their legislators actually vote in Raleigh," Pope said.

Political observers believe the ongoing campaign finance controversy could hurt Democrats in close races, and that could mean a good election year for Republicans to try to regain control of the house. But will the infighting hurt them?

"The fact is that they have a brutal internal fight going on, and it's going to divide them all the way into the November elections," said Democratic political consultant Brad Crone.

Crone sees both parties in disarray, which ultimately could leave the public wondering whom to trust.

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