Red Shift?

Why did six House Dems break ranks with their caucus to support Republican Thom Tillis for House Speaker today?

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Tillis Jan 2011 gavel opening day

The state Senate leadership vote went off without a hitch today.

With no Democratic challenger, Rockingham Republican Phil Berger was elected president pro tem by acclamation. The House, on the other had, offered a bit more drama: the majority (68 Republicans) nominated Mecklenburg Rep. Thom Tillis, while the minority (52 Democrats) nominated former Speaker Joe Hackney (D-Orange).

You might have expected the vote to break along party lines, but it didn’t. Tillis won by a vote of 74 to 46. All the GOP members voted for Tillis, joined by six Democrats who crossed the aisle to vote for Tillis over Hackney.

Beverly Earle’s vote was pretty predictable. As a Mecklenburg Democrat, she had good reason to back a member of her local delegation for leadership. Four others – Dewey Hill (Columbus), Tim Spear (Washington), Bill Owens (Pasquotank), and Jim Crawford (Granville) – weren’t all that surprising, either. Crawford and Owens may have held positions of power under Hackney, but when you get right down to it, they’re among the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus.

The one that doesn’t fit is Elmer Floyd, a Fayetteville Democrat. He isn’t really considered conservative, and he’s not from Charlotte, either. So why the vote for Tillis? Is he trying to make friends with the new leadership, or is he angling to become a power broker between the new GOP leadership and the historically Democratic Legislative Black Caucus?

Were the six Dems offered positions of power for their votes? Tillis says no. He told reporters Wednesday he had not solicited any Democratic votes.  But he also conceded he’s more likely to offer leadership positions to Democrats who share his “business-friendly” philosophy. We’ll find out exactly what that means when House committee lists are released Thursday.




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