Prior to the November elections, Republicans had just 16 members who were first elected before 2000. Two of those members (Jim Ellington and Frank Hamilton) aren’t coming back. Contrast that with the Democrats who had 18 members elected before 1990. Following defeats and retirements, that number is down to 13. (Those not back include J.P. Compretta, Billy McCoy, Mary Ann Stevens, Harvey Moss, and Walter Robinson). And if you looked at Democrats elected before 2000, that totaled 40 of their 68 members at the time.
And in many ways, their majority was maintained on the back of these veterans who had been around for more than three decades in some cases. Naturally, they got the top committees: Redistricting/ Apportionment- Tommy Reynolds (1980), Appropriations- Johnny Stringer (1980), Banking and Finance- George Flaggs (1988), Corrections- Bennett Malone (1980), Gaming- Bobby Moak (1984), Insurance- Walter Robinson (1984), Jud A- Ed Blackmon (1979), Public Health- Steve Holland (1984), Transportation- Warner McBride (1992), and Ways and Means- Percy Watson (1980). And, of course, Billy McCoy (1980) was Speaker, J.P. Compretta (1976) was pro-temp, and Tyrone Ellis (1980) was Majority Leader.
As we have talked about, it will be a much different experience over the next four years for guys like Reynolds, Stringer, Malone, Moak, Holland, Blackmon, etc. than the past two or three decades.
Simply put, these Democrats were elected when the state wasn’t into electing Republicans at the legislative level. I think this gave McCoy and his leadership as much trouble as anything. They were elected into a chamber with 115 or so Democrats and never had to deal with or know what to do with these weird people with Rs next to their name. Basically, the legislature was one-big club and you will still hear talk and read columns about those glorious years before partisanship took over.
Through the years, residents in the state’s suburban areas were the first to vote Republican. And these areas still provide the strongest Republican territory, but as we have talked about one of the original key areas- Hinds county- is now down to just two Republicans in their delegation. But as you know Hinds looks quite a bit different than it did 25 years ago.
For the new Republican majority, I’ll wait and see whom the most coveted chairs go to, but my guess is you’ll see a mixture of vets and the young members (in terms of experience) who make up the bulk of their majority. By my count, nearly a third of the GOP caucus will be freshman. Across the board, Republicans have some of the brightest minds and most articulate conservatives who unfortunately had been shut out by McCoy. We will all learn about their capabilities very soon.
As opposed to some state columnists, I don’t think roads will crumble without McCoy or schools will shut down without Cecil Brown.