Recap: The Speaker & Party Switches
As I took a week off from the blog following the elections, a couple big stories played out that we need to talk about:
** Last week, the Republican conference chose Philip Gunn as their preferred candidate to be Speaker of the House as you probably know. Unless there are more trunks of voters to be found, Republicans will have a majority and he will be Speaker. The GOP has been disciplined for some time now and don’t see that breaking up in January when members take the ultimate vote. The glimmer of hope that some Democrats are apparently clinging to is finding a few Republicans who will break off in exchange for plum committee assignments and support some D/R coalition. I don’t know if Democrats are organized enough to pull that off and you already have Democrats like George Flaggs committing to vote for the Republican candidate. I’d say odds are better that Democrats don’t even nominate a candidate.
What this also means is that Northeast Mississippi’s grip on the Speaker’s gavel will be ending after 24 years. Tim Ford of Baldwyn served from 1988-2004 and Billy McCoy of Rienzi has served for the last eight years. And just eight years ago, North Mississippi held the top three offices when Ronnie Musgrove (Batesville) was governor, Amy Tuck (Maben) was lieutenant governor, and Ford was Speaker. Now, their power is about as low as it has been in some time while the capitol area will have power unprecedented for that region in as long as I can remember with Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves hailing from Rankin county and Gunn being from Clinton.
** We also got our first party switcher in the House. Donnie Bell of Fulton switched to the GOP three days after winning re-election as a Democrat. This makes Bell the first Billy McCoy ally to leave the party and he became the second Democrat with a less than conservative record to join the GOP. It didn’t take much for someone like Russ Nowell who voted for Jeff Smith and was relegated to the back seat by McCoy to switch parties. Bell, however, knows who the majority party is and who will be running the show.
It will be interesting to see how Bell and some white Democrats vote in a GOP House. Remember, we had a number of Democrats in the Senate generally support Phil Bryant and the GOP because they had to support the legislation that was being pushed in that chamber. Most of that was killed in the House. But with the GOP controlling the legislation in the House now, I suspect more Democrats will be voting with the majority and getting better grades from groups like BIPEC or NFIB.
And one other point on Bell. With his switch the GOP now controls HD 19, HD 20, and HD 21. These three Northeast Mississippi seats represent old Yellow Dog country better than just about anywhere in the state. In 2007, Democrats held on to these seats which were all open that year. Trust me; this gave Republicans major headaches at the time. In rematches, Randy Boyd knocked off Mark DuVall while Chris Brown defeated Jimmy Puckett. The seats previously held by Democratic lions like Bill Miles and Jamie Franks are now in Republican control. How things have changed.