Republican House members gather in Asheboro Saturday to pick a new leader, a process that one legislator compares to another celebrated conclave.
"It's like electing a Pope in the Sistine Chapel," says Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican. "You cast secret ballots. Nobody knows how you vote.
"The only thing is, we don't put up white smoke when we're done."
Six Republicans, including three from the greater Charlotte area, are running to replace GOP Speaker Thom Tillis, who was elected to the U.S. Senate. Republicans will meet at Randolph County Community College Saturday to nominate a candidate for speaker and elect other caucus leaders.
Running for speaker are Republican Reps. Tim Moore of Kings Mountain, John Blust of Greensboro, Justin Burr of Albemarle, Leo Daughtry of Smithfield, Bryan Holloway of King and Mitchell Setzer of Catawba.
Like the cardinals in Rome, Republicans may have to go through several ballots before anyone gets the 38 votes needed. The winner would face a vote of the full House in January, though with 74 votes, a GOP candidate with broad party support will be the odds-on favorite.
Jeter is among other Republicans running for leadership positions. A candidate for GOP conference leader, a job that would give him oversight of the next elections, he's the only one running unopposed.
For Jeter, re-elected this month with 52.5 percent of the vote, that's welcome news.
"I'm certainly grateful that my election is unopposed," he says. "Being in a Democratic district where you're always going to be opposed, (it's nice) to finally be in an election unopposed."