The fate of Republicans in the legislature is linked to House Speaker Joe Mavretic's quest for a second term, Gov. Jim Martin says.
``In order for Speaker Mavretic to win a second term, he'll have to find additional allies he didn't have in 1989,' Martin said. ``If he is not speaker, it's not likely - well, it's certain - that Republicans will not have the same voice they have had in the last two years.'Mavretic said Thursday that he has more than 50 of the 61 votes needed for a second term as speaker, despite the loss of seven Republican seats in the House.
He said Republicans would account for 38 seats in the House, and that 12 Democrats remain of the original 20 dissidents who combined with Republicans to elect Mavretic in 1989.
``I also would suggest to you we have some firm commitments that reduce that number (needed to win) to single digits,' Mavretic said.
Mavretic's toppling of four-term Speaker Liston Ramsey left Democrats deeply divided in the General Assembly for the last two years. The bitterness left from the coup makes it unlikely Mavretic could win again without Republican support.
Nearly a half-dozen Democrats have said they will seek to unseat Mavretic in January. The list includes Reps. Bob Hunter of Marion, Dan Blue of Raleigh, Dave Diamont of Pilot Mountain, Jack Hunt of Shelby and Joe Hackney of Chapel Hill. Blue and Hunter are considered the two top candidates.
``What we are going to see ... in the House Speaker's race is, first, whether the race is going to be won on the floor or in the (Democratic) caucus,' Mavretic said. ``Picking the speaker in caucus means that the speaker is selected with support from only a third of the members.
``A binding caucus vote means you could become speaker with 41 votes,' Mavretic said. ``I think that will become a philosophical question.'
Martin said Republicans would be interested in a coalition, if it can be formed. But if Democrats ``return to old-style, pork barrel party discipline, then we will have to deal with that.'
Martin said Republicans made their biggest legislative gains in 1988 after he and GOP candidates criticized the Ramsey regime.
Mavretic, who was snubbed by his party after forming the coalition with Republicans, said the legislative elections showed that voters are more interested in individual candidates and their platforms than party labels.
He also criticized party leaders for Harvey Gantt's loss to Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. He also noted that eastern counties delivered for Gantt, while the mountain counties - home to Ramsey and Hunter - went for Helms.
``Those of us in the east, particularly in the northeast, will not stay quiet when people say that the east always goes for Helms,' he said.
``I am hearing people in the Democratic Party at high levels saying what Harvey did wrong, or what Harvey should have done,' Mavretic said. ``They should be asking what the party chairman and his paid staff did. I think it's going to become clear over time that Harvey Gantt's problems came from (state party chairman) Lawrence Davis and his staff.'
``That's such a ridiculous assertion that it doesn't even deserve comment,' said John Humphrey, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party.
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