RALEIGH — African-Americans will wield some new strength in state politics this January.

The Legislative Black Caucus now holds a majority of seats within the minority ranks, meaning when it comes to setting agendas, naming leadership, and standing up to Republican ideology, this group will be the voice of Democratic officials.

No question about it, Republicans will rule the halls of the legislature when it convenes in January, setting the agenda and in many cases not needing any Democratic help to get bills passed.

But when you look at the make-up of the minority side of the aisle, not only are Democrats continuing to settle in to the role as the party on the sidelines, they will now also be adjusting to a new dynamic within their party.

"I think everyone understands the political landscape as it exists," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, "and we will have a majority of African-American members in the House and an even number in the Senate. With everyone being aware of that, I think the political dynamic will put us in a stronger position."

The Legislative Black Caucus could now choose who the minority leader is in the House, and could certainly block someone in the senate with their numbers.

McKissick said with this power, members of the Black Caucus are ready to step up to the plate, and help lead.

"There are quite a few I think we have substantial interest and I think it is yet to be determined who will emerge within that group to move into the forefront," he said. "But I think we have a lot of strong smart members within the African-American caucus who I think will be able to do so."

Political observers point out this will be a new spotlight for the black caucus to step in to — one that could get a lot of attention.

"If the Black Caucus does in fact engineer the selection of a minority leader and it’s someone who is very liberal, that is going to set a tone as to what the Democratic Party is perceived as, because how they stand up to the governor and the House and Senate leaders is very important," said David McLennan, with William Peace University.

For now, members of the Black Caucus said they are hopeful for a relationship of mutual respect and working together, but also said they are prepared to tackle the tough issues if they need to.

The Legislative Black Caucus is not scheduled to meet until December. The House and Senate minority is expected to meet after that to decide on their leadership for the next session.