November 16 2004, 8:08 AM
Reports immediately after the election on November 3 announced that the Democrats had retaken the state House with a 34-31 majority. Those reports assumed that in House District 23, incumbent Ramey Johnson would hang on against Democratic challenger Gwyn Green. But now, after provisional ballots have been counted (after a late rule change by Secretary of State Donetta Davidson), Green has come out on top by 41 votes. This is close enough to trigger the automatic recount law, but Green's victory, if it stands, will give Democrats a 35-30 state House majority. This vote has given state Republicans yet another opportunity to engage in recriminations about the problems caused by the party's right wing ideological stances. After Johnson voted against a school voucher bill, she found herself the target of a negative mailing to residents of her district -- funded by pro-voucher Republicans. Johnson complains that the party has become a "circular firing squad," targeting its own for insufficient ideological purity. How Republicans address the complaints of the Ramey Johnsons in their party will determine whether they will be able to rebound from their state-level election debacle this year.