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The Mayor’s Race In Clarksdale

December 5, 2011

As posted on Fire McCoy last week, Rep. Chuck Espy was recently on the Gallo show where he said that he may be running for mayor of Clarksdale next year, should his father, Henry Espy, decide against another term. If Espy does leave this seat to pursue a run, this would set up a special election for his House seat- one that would certainly be a Democratic hold.

But Espy might not be the only man in the race. Rumor, even before he lost his re-election contest, was that outgoing Rep. John Mayo is also interested in running for mayor of his hometown. If that were to be the case, it would certainly set up a high-profile battle for the mid-sized town.

One other point on Espy. I wouldn’t call him a conservative by any stretch of the imagination, but he certainly has more of a moderate image and reputation than most members of the Black Caucus. He voted for Jeff Smith in 2007 and before that took on Bennie Thompson in the 2006 Democratic primary; a race where he was viewed as the best alternative to Thompson knowing a Republican isn’t going to win that seat. Because of this, I could certainly see Espy picking up a decent chairmanship in the House.

This year, Espy was unopposed in the primary and general election.

Quick Notes From The Democratic Party

December 2, 2011

Here are a couple quick notes from the Mississippi Democratic Party:

** On December 13, Johnny DuPree, whose fundraising troubles were well documented during the gubernatorial campaign, will have a reception in Hattiesburg where he hopes to raise money perhaps to pay off some campaign debt:

** In an email titled “Time To Build Up,” which appears to be the party’s theme, Rickey Cole promotes the upcoming precinct caucuses and encourages Democrats to attend:

Precincts In Jackson That Bennie Wants

December 1, 2011

We recently obtained a copy of the lawsuit filed by Sen. Kelvin Buck and others regarding Congressional redistricting where they offered their own plan, one we can presume is favored and supported by Bennie Thompson.

Earlier this week we gave some assumptions on what the plan might include, and here are those details:

- In Hinds county, the following precincts currently in MS-03 would move to MS-02: 8, 9, 17, 36, 37, 44, 45, and 79. Here is some info on those precincts. The following are majority black: 36, 37, 44, and 79; the following have a substantial number of white liberals: 8, 9, and 17. The only bright red precinct that would move to MS-02 is 45. It’s 87 percent white/ 79 percent McCain but surrounded by majority black, Democratic precincts and there is nothing else you can do if you want to move those to the Second.

- There were also various changes in Madison county. A couple white/ Republican precincts would move from MS-02 to MS-03 including Virlilia and Gluckstadt. At the same time, these precincts would move to MS-02: Ratliff Ferry, Cedar Grove, and Bear Creek. Cedar Grove is a small but largely white and Republican precinct. Ratliff Ferry is majority black while Bear Creek is split right around 50/50.

- All of Leake county, which is split right now, would be in MS-02 as would Panola. Grenada would send a couple precincts to MS-02 including Holcomb, Sweethorne, and boxes within the city of Grenada- Republican and Democratic alike.

You can see the lawsuit, details of these changes, and their others plans here:

View this document on Scribd

Bryant Starts With A Strong Team

December 1, 2011
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Earlier this week, Phil Bryant announced the creation of policy committees to help the next governor build his policy agenda as Bryant gets ready for his first session of the legislature as governor. This structure will be chaired by Mark Garriga, former Chief of Staff for Governor Kirk Fordice, and you will see many prominent names among the chairs:

- Agriculture/Forestry: Cindy Hyde-Smith, State Senator and Ag Commissioner-elect

- Budget: Dr. John Kelly, City Administrator, City of Gulfport

- Education: Charles McClelland, Chairman, State Board of Education

- Energy: David Gates, President, Atmos Mississippi

- Government Accountability: Hoopy Stringer, Former Mississippi Dept. of Finance and Administration Executive Director

- Health Care: Dr. Randy Easterling, President, Mississippi State Medical Association

- Information Technology: John Hairston, CEO and Chief Operating Officer of Hancock Bank

- Jobs: Glenn McCullough, Chairman of Advance Mississippi, Former Director of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

- Public Safety: Toby Trowbridge, Sheriff, Madison County

- Regulatory: Ron Aldridge, Executive Director, Mississippi National Federation of Independent Businesses

- Tourism: Billy Hewes, Senate Pro-Tem, State Senator

Bryant said this about the the chairs: “I am pleased to have so many experts from all over the state of Mississippi on these policy committees to help build an agenda for the upcoming legislative session. I am confident that the experience and dedication everyone collectively brings to the committees will help make the legislative session in January very productive.”

And Jim Herring, who is heading Bryant’s transition, said this: “The Governor-elect has put together a knowledgeable and well-respected team of experts to help guide his policy agenda for his term in office. These policy committees will review Governor-elect Bryant’s proposals and policies as well as new ideas, and they will make recommendations about strategies to make them successful.”

A Way Too Early Look At 2015

November 30, 2011

Over the past year, I’d say the bulk of our attention has been on House races. Most saw them as the key battleground with Democrats having only slight hope in the Senate and no hope in statewides (except for AG obviously). We first looked at potentially competitive House races back in February. We looked at seven. Republicans flipped four and barely missed out on the other three. And throughout the months that would follow we did our best to support the Republican candidates but provide factual information on what was happening in House races throughout the entire state, rather than lead you on. And I think that is more useful than anything else because that information is just not readily available.

We didn’t make many bold predictions because I don’t like to, but regularly looked at the key races and even developed House ratings for all 122 seats at one point.

I don’t know what 2015 will bring, but I figured there was no time like the present to take the first look at potentially competitive House races the next time we do this thing. I doubt this will be updated for three-and-a-half years, but here is a start.

Front-line Democrats

HD 2- Nick Bain
HD 4- Jody Steverson

Potential retirement

HD 45- Bennett Malone

And right behind them would be HD 79 (Bo Eaton), HD 86 (Sherra Lane), and HD 122 (David Baria). As for Bain and Steverson, they barely survived the Republican tide in Northeast Mississippi but won nice open seats for the Democratic Party. And I still believe Malone is gone after this term. But Republicans should contest there either way.

If the Republicans play redistricting right, I would like to see several other Democrats at the top of the list.

Front-line Republicans

HD 3- Tracy Arnold
HD 13- Steve Massengill
HD 21- Donnie Bell*
HD 28- Tommy Taylor
HD 93- Timmy Lander
HD 105- Dennis Debar
HD 111- Charles Busby
HD 121- Carolyn Crawford

Generally speaking, this is freshman Republicans who were in the mid-50s and lower. Usually when a district finally flips, it doesn’t flip back, but just wanted to put them out there. For Bell, his voting record over the next four years will be a big issue. He could certainly face a primary challenge and that would my first concern if I was him.

Republicans who survived strong Democratic challenges were Bill Denny (HD 64) and Greg Snowden (HD 83). I expect them to each see a friendlier district when the new maps are drawn.

And, of course, those new maps are the major variable. Last time around, Democrats attempted to draw an incumbent protection plan for their majority. I see the GOP being more aggressive here and attempting to pick off at least a few seats and strengthen their majority under the new maps.

Democratic Candidates In MS-01 & MS-04?

November 29, 2011

A lot of the talk concerning the House races next fall involves the primaries. Henry Ross and potentially others are looking to unseat Alan Nunnelee. Heather McTeer is taking on Bennie Thompson. And we already have one challenger to Steven Palazzo, but more wouldn’t surprise me.

The qualifying deadline for those wanting to run is January 13. Beyond potential primaries to Republican freshmen in MS-01 and MS-04, I wouldn’t be surprised to see fairly serious Democratic challengers in the general election. After all, they both went Republican just a year ago so they have shown a certain independent streak.

Regardless of who carries the Republican banner in MS-04, and Palazzo still has to be the favorite at this point, the biggest name Democrats can get is Gene Taylor and that would certainly be a coup putting this race probably close to toss-up territory when it begins. Of course, Taylor would still have to answer for being a Democrat. His popularity only carried him so far in 2010, but perhaps voters have changed their minds.

You also have names like David Baria and Brandon Jones if the opportunity arises. Jones is out of the House after losing a tight re-election battle while Baria is likely to have little responsibility in the new Republican House. And Baria is popular, at least in Hancock county.

The First District has long been home to many local Democrats, especially in the state legislature. Some are still around, some aren’t. But Nunnelee is pretty popular overall, so I don’t see too many Democrats jumping in to what would likely be a difficult contest. Eric Powell has been a name mentioned for various offices, but that is likely off the table after losing re-election. Someone like Nickey Browning could be a good candidate, but don’t see him running as a Democrat for federal office. Steve Holland ran back in 2008 losing to Travis Childers in the primary, and he may be one of those guys who runs because he has nothing better to do in the new House.

We aren’t a long way off in terms of qualifying deadlines, but we seem to have a long way to go until the field is settled.

Nunnelee: Congressmen Shouldn’t Draw Their Districts

November 28, 2011

As it became apparent earlier this year that Congressional map drawing was going nowhere in the legislature, one of the main things that just rubbed me (and I imagine many other people who read it) the wrong way was comments by Terry Burton and Tommy Reynolds on how they are working with the four incumbents to agree on the new map.

And as the courts have stepped in to handle drawing the new maps, one of those Congressmen, Alan Nunnelee, was quoted as saying: “I just don’t think it’s appropriate for any member of Congress to draw their own district to suit themselves.” He said this when asked about the role he plans to take in pushing a certain map.

At the same time, Bennie Thompson has been lobbying publicly and privately to keep southwest Mississippi out of his district saying it would stretch his district out unnecessarily and “defeat the purpose of compactness.” Last Monday, state Rep. Kelvin Buck (D-Holly Springs) and a “group of black voters” filed a lawsuit proposing a map likely in coordination with Thompson. Nunnelee, along with Steven Palazzo and Gregg Harper, oppose this plan.

This map sent all of Panola county to MS-02 along with parts of Grenada, Leake, Madison, and Hinds. Leake, Madison, and Hinds are already split so I have no idea what Buck’s plan may have looked like.

The big controversy has been potentially moving Northeast Jackson into Thompson’s district from MS-03. Obviously you can’t make all residents happy with their potential Congressman, but you are looking at some of the most influential Republicans in the state in these precincts who will be a little angrier, and have more say, than your average voter. With that, I certainly haven’t seen Buck’s map but I did come up with a good sketch based on the counties mentioned in the AP article.

We know they want to shift all of Panola to MS-02 and that seems like something everyone has agreed on. That county is split about 50/50 and Obama won it with 52 percent in 2008. In the map I drew, the other split counties were more of a guess, but here is what else I got in a map using those counties.

In Grenada, you have a couple strong Democratic precincts in the city (Box 3 and Box 4), but you need to take in very strong Republican boxes from unincorporated communities like Holcomb, Geeslin, and Hardy. This would split the city of Grenada but I imagine Republicans in the city would be OK with it if it saves them from Thompson. In Leake, I pulled in Lena and Walnut Grove precincts, both majority black/ strong Democratic boxes. In Madison, the only precinct I moved to MS-02 was Ratliff Ferry, again majority black and Democratic. I kept the south Madison precincts, save for Tougaloo and its three votes for John McCain ,which is already in the Second, in the Third.

Now for Hinds and Northeast Jackson in particular. A number of the boxes I moved voted for Obama, and some were majority black, so it wasn’t exactly a huge transition for them. This includes the precinct with more white liberals than probably any in the state, Voting District 17, which is 90 percent white, but gave Obama 48 percent of the vote. Others moved to MS-02: Voting District 8, 9, 36, 37, 44, 45, 46, 78, and 79. Included are two big Republican precincts- 45 and 46. Staying with MS-03 are: Voting Districts 14, 32, 33, 34, and 35. Voting District 15 (91 percent white, 71 percent McCain) moves from the Second to the Third.

Here is a close up of Northeast Jackson under this map.

Again, I have no insight on what Buck and company proposed, but if you are going to move something from Northeast Jackson, this is what I’d be looking at.

As for a “Republican plan,” I haven’t seen one but I did draw up a map which would move Adams and Wilkinson to MS-02. I also moved Panola which looks like its headed to the Second regardless. It can be done pretty cleanly moving those three counties in their entirety. I kept everything the same including Hinds county but had to remove two boxes from Leake county. They were both Republican precincts.

Here are the numbers on the two maps, which hopefully will show you little is on the line in the lawsuit: In a map modeled after the Democratic lawsuit, MS-02 would have a BVAP of 61.3 percent and give Obama 65 percent of the vote. The plan that shifts Southwest Mississippi to MS-02 has a BVAP of 61.8 percent with 65.5 percent of the vote going to Obama. So basically no differences of any significance in terms of statistics and there is no talk of diluting the black vote in the Second regardless of who wins.

Sen. Jackson Guilty But Details Scarce

November 25, 2011

In a story we have been tracking since August, Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Marks) was found guilty in Quitman County Justice Court on Monday. According to WREG, Jackson “was found guilty of simple assault to create fear, and stalking, also known as harassment.”

But details of the proceedings were pretty hard to come by. The county didn’t make records available and as we’ve said getting news out of Quitman county isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world. Along with WREG, the Clarksdale Press Register also covered the story but you need a subscription to read their report.

The story dates back to before the Democratic primary when Darnell Servillion, a local man, was campaigning for Jackson’s wife’s opponent in a county race, and he alleged that the state senator threatened him and pulled a gun on him. Following the ruling on Monday, Jackson maintained his innocence and said he would be appealing.

Jackson is set to begin his third term in January representing a district that includes portions of Coahoma, Quitman, Tate, and Tunica counties. During the previous four-year session, he served as Chair of the Executive Contingent Fund committee and Vice-Chair of the Veterans and Military Affairs committee.

What happens with Jackson is anyone’s guess. In the WREG report, they interviewed a couple constituents who weren’t happy with his behavior. Perhaps he may face pressure to resign sometime in the future. But whatever he does or doesn’t do, his decision won’t affect which party controls this seat. It is as safe as any for a Democrat regardless of the cloud hanging over their head.

Judges To Draw Congressional Maps

November 23, 2011

A panel of district judges will draw the state’s new Congressional map, according to Bloomberg. Here is the report:

Mississippi federal judges said they will draw up a new map of congressional districts in the state, according to a filing in federal court.

A panel of three U.S. judges in Jackson, Mississippi, gave the parties in a lawsuit over the redistricting until Dec. 12 to object to the court’s authority to devise a map, according to a docket entry today.

The judges also gave the parties until Dec. 12 to comment on a redistricting proposal in a new lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in Jackson. That suit was brought by black voters against state officials including Republican Governor Haley Barbour.

The problem with the legislature finishing their work is the deadline. The new legislative session begins on January 3. The qualifying deadline for Congressional races is January 13 and the primaries will take place in March. In that time frame, their is just no possible way to complete the maps and get them approved by the feds. And remember, these talks never came up in the last session which was dominated by legislative redistricting.

Some people have talked of a special session but Haley Barbour long maintained that he wouldn’t call one unless a deal was in place. That deal, between the Democratic House and Republican Senate, never occurred and that Democratic majority in the House is now on its way out so there is no real reason to give Tommy Reynolds and company one last seat at the table.

But as we have talked about all along- this is about minor details mainly between Bennie Thompson and Gregg Harper. Obviously to the people this impacts, Northeast Jackson in particular, it’s an issue but in the grand scheme it won’t affect any elections. MS-02 will still be majority black and safe for Thompson or any Democrat while MS-03 will remain safe for Harper and the GOP. As MS-01 and MS-04 have shown a certain independent streak at times, these districts are certainly the safest in the state for the respective parties.

Can Democrats Improve Their Fundraising?

November 22, 2011

In my post earlier today, I opined that the party label next to their name is the biggest obstacle that Democrats face in running for statewide office in Mississippi. But you could also argue that they won’t win when they are outspent 7-1 or 8-1 by their Republican opponent. Yet at the same time, if they were competitive they would raise money. That is why Jim Hood can still bring in the cash. But at the end of the day, this is a chicken or the egg type argument.

Nationally, Democrats obviously have more success raising money and they doing it via various channels including the business community, finance, education, healthcare, Hollywood, labor unions, and lawyers. And other areas as well but I’d say this makes up the biggest chunk. Some of these sectors (like business) are bi-partisan and want to be a player regardless of who is in power. Others- labor, trial lawyers, Hollywood- not so much.

So what does this mean for Mississippi Democrats? Labor, one of the most generous allies to Democrats, is basically non-existent in the state. You will find various donations from MAE or the AFL-CIO, but nothing of great significance. Overall, the state has a certain distrust- and even disdain- for unions (private and public), but the irony is that they are as weak as they are because of policies from previous generations of Democratic members of the legislature.

Similarly, the first round of tort reform that severely handicapped trial lawyers was at Democratic hands. The real irony here was that this did little to help their election prospects by appealing conservative. In 2003 when Haley Barbour was running for governor, you’d have had no idea that any tort reform had been enacted at that point. It was a great campaign strategy. And it is still a major issue for Republican candidates. So it didn’t help their electoral success, but helped to cut off their funding.

But business funds are what really did Democrats in. Between direct contributions and outside groups, they were able to play a very big role in Republican wins in 2011- particularly in legislative races. As I said, business gives money to Democrats nationally. Until they are able to get this money in state, they are going to be dramatically outspent.

Can’t Get Around The D Next To Their Name

November 22, 2011

You knew it was coming the moment Johnny DuPree secured the Democratic nomination. In a Clarion-Ledger article looking at the issue of race in the gubernatorial campaign, Leslie McLemore made the comment, “Historically, whites don’t vote for black folks. There are exceptions, but those exceptions are few and far between.” I’m not a professor like McLemore so I’m not here to talk about history, but about the present.

Shortly after the election we looked at Phil Bryant’s win, and the transition to where the Democratic candidate was relegated to Hinds county along with Delta and River counties and a few other majority-black counties sprinkled in. About ten years ago, Democrats were competitive in Northeast Mississippi. They no longer are.

To see what kind of factor race may have played I then decided to look at an all-white matchup. For this I looked at the treasurer’s race, an interesting all-female contest between Republican Lynn Fitch and Democrat Connie Moran. Many of the same factors from the Bryant-DuPree were in play, especially the big GOP money advantage.

Traditionally, Republicans had been held in the low to mid 50s in their first term, but Fitch pulled 59 percent of the vote. She won by 21 points. Bryant won by 22.

The counties each candidate won were nearly identical although Fitch actually pulled in two that DuPree carried. This includes Adams and Marshall. Fitch’s family is from Marshall county so that likely helped her squeak out a 100 vote win there. Bryant lost the county by about 100 votes.

McLemore chose to say that whites won’t vote for blacks. A more accurate statement is that whites generally don’t vote for Democrats. Whites are generally Republicans. Blacks are generally Democrats. That is just the way it is and while 37 percent is a strong minority; it is indeed a minority if you can’t pull white votes as DuPree, Moran and other were unable to do.

The bottom line is Mississippi is a Republican state and the fact the state elected a Republican governor is no more shocking than New York electing a Democratic governor. Sure, Democrats aren’t going to win when they are outspent 7-1, but they generally aren’t going to win if they have a D next to their name. That is the biggest problem. If it was believed that they could win, they would raise more money. Money generally follows winners. See Jim Hood.

Scott Colom has an interesting read in the Commercial Dispatch on where the Democrats can go from here and how they can rebrand themselves.

By the way, this racial polarization that liberals and professors love to talk about seems to be the norm nationally. Barack Obama, the first “post-racial” president, has awful numbers among whites. They disapprove of his performance by a 61-36 margin while non-whites approve of the job he is doing by a 2-1 margin. It will be very interesting to see if you can win the White House with only one in three white votes nationally.

Primary Season Will Be Here Soon

November 21, 2011

While voters have just gone to the polls two weeks ago, another election season is upon us whether you like it or not. This is the simply the system that is in place in Mississippi. By holding statewide, legislative, and county elections the year before the presidential election you are guaranteed a quick turnaround time with primaries right around the corner.

In the “off-year” Congressional elections (2006, 2010, 2014, etc.), primaries are held some time in the spring. I believe it was June 1 in 2010. But the 2012 primaries are set for March, coinciding with the presidential primaries. Some states hold separate elections for Congressional and presidential primaries, Mississippi does not.

Judging by the way the Republican presidential primary has gone so far, I don’t think it’d be a far fetched to imagine it still being in the air by the time Mississippians head to the polls. Polling of Republican primary voters only, Newt Gingrich leads with 28 percent in the state compared to 25 percent for Herman Cain, 14 percent for Rick Perry, and 12 percent for Mitt Romney. Speaking of Romney, the state has never warmed to the perceived frontrunner, and I think that underscores his problems in the South. Perry was the obvious choice to carry the anti-Romney mantle but his campaign never took off. Gingrich is in very strong position to win the state’s primary, should he still be in the race in March.

Of course, Obama’s 36 percent approval rating here virtually guarantees the GOP nominee will carry the state’s electoral votes. In hypothetical matchups, he loses by 12-18 points to any Republican and is generally in the low 80s with the black vote, compared to upper 90s in 2008.

Immediately following the 2010 election, there was talk about a challenger to Roger Wicker’s right. Unless they are running the most secretive campaign in history, that person doesn’t exist, at least not in any serious form. Among primary voters, he leads 56-26 over “someone more conservative” and has a 75 percent approval rating. Across the board, the Republican maintains a nice 56-23 approval rating. I wouldn’t be shocked if Democrats pass on this race. Every big name Dem (Moore, Musgrove, Childers, Taylor) gets trounced in hypothetical matchups.

The Congressional primaries could be a little more interesting, but again the time table has to be a concern. First, we still don’t know what the Congressional maps will look like. With the GOP taking control of the House, Gregg Harper should get his wish and keep Northeast Jackson. But these are small details. The maps don’t greatly affect anything.

Harper, in fact, is the only House member who isn’t facing a primary in some form or fashion. Bennie Thompson, the lone Democrat in the delegation, is facing a challenge from former Greenville Mayor Heather McTeer (and others). Thompson has faced primaries before, but never from his left. Will be interesting to watch and to see if McTeer can drum up the female vote, but Thompson is still king of the Delta.

Alan Nunnelee is very likely to face a primary rematch from Henry Ross. We have been looking at this for some time now. But probably the most serious challenge will be in MS-04 where Steven Palazzo has faced bad press for staff turnover (which began almost immediately) to a more recent story involving staffers who threw a two-night party in Annapolis and tried to impersonate the Congressman after getting a call from local police. One candidate from the Coast has already emerged, but this will get very interesting if any sitting Republican officials decide to make a run here.

But those challengers have little time to get in, followed by a very short timeframe to run. And of course they still have to remind voters, who are certain to have some amount of fatigue, that their is an election going on.

Recap: The Speaker & Party Switches

November 21, 2011

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.

A Thank You To Dr. Bondurant

November 11, 2011

While HD 24 has not officially been called yet, Sid Bondurant appears to have lost his re-election contest where he was running as a Republican for the first time. Unofficial numbers have 3,745 votes for Democrat Kevin Horan compared to 3,600 votes for Bondurant. Bondurant, the only medical doctor in the legislature, had planned to run for Speaker of the House if he returned.

He obviously won’t get that opportunity. But men like Bondurant, who put aside personal interests in voting against the House Democrats map, deserve gratitude from Republicans and conservatives throughout the state. Bondurant could have easily won re-election under the Reynolds map. His new district would have had a BVAP in the 20s compared to the 40s. Bondurant didn’t bite, knowing what it would have meant for the GOP overall, and joined a unified Republican conference in opposing it. Bondurant may have lost the battle, but conservatives look like they have won the war.

Other members like Greg Snowden and Bill Denny will be back after fighting off very difficult challenges from Democrats. They were in a very similar situation to Bondurant; again putting personal interests aside. If you are happy with Tuesday’s results, you owe these men a thank you.

Another Republican incumbent who looks like he has lost is Jim Ellington in Hinds county. After absentees were counted he closed on Brad Oberhousen, but not enough to take the lead. Ellington could tell you stories about when you could count the number of House Republicans on one hand. It is sad that he won’t be there when the GOP finally takes the Speaker’s gavel, but I am sure he is happy with the way everything is ending up.

On that note, I am going to take the next week off from the blog. I know we still have a few races to be called, but it will take a large trunk load of votes to switch the outcomes in HD 28, HD 93, and HD 121. Republicans will choose their nominee for Speaker early next week, and if things go as planned that man or woman will be the next Speaker of the House. The five most likely to seek the nomination are Jeff Smith of Columbus, Mark Formby of Picayune, Herb Frierson of Poplarville, Philip Gunn of Clinton and John Moore of Brandon.

By the way, in addition to the Mississippi House flipping Republicans took control of the Virginia Senate. This means there are now 27 states with a fully Republican legislature, compared to 15 with Democrats in control and seven split. Also with Mississippi and Virginia changing, the only state in the South where Republicans don’t control both houses is Arkansas, check back next November. (Kentucky doesn’t either if you consider that the South).

We will see you soon.

Bell Joins Tollison In GOP- More Likely

November 11, 2011

Yesterday Gray Tollison made headlines when it was announced that he was switching parties two days after being re-elected, without opposition, as a Democrat. A member of the legislature since 1996, Tollison served as Chair of Judiciary, Division B and Vice-Chair of Education over the last legislative term.

Over the past two decades, scores of Democrats have changed parties so this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. In the lead up to the qualifying deadline earlier this year we kept track of switchers. Following Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, we have counted 42 Democrats in Mississippi who have joined the Republican Party. This includes representatives and senators, but the Tollison switch may have signaled a bigger change.

For one, the ex-Democrats generally voted with the Republicans nearly all the time, if not all the time. That isn’t exactly the case with Tollison. Over the last four years, his grades from BIPEC have been D, B, C, and D. Among Democrats who are coming back, Nickey Browning, Haskins Montgomery, and J.P. Wilemon all would likely be considered more conservative. But the GOP is happy to have Tollison on their team. For one, Republicans now have 31 members, which is 60 percent of 52, a key number to be at.

The man who will soon lead the Senate, Tate Reeves, was happy to have Tollison on board: “I welcome Gray Tollison to the Republican Party and will rely on his experience next year in the Mississippi Senate. I look forward to working with Gray to try to make Mississippi the best place in America to do business and to keep it the best place to raise a family. Together we will work on bold solutions to help improve the education attainment level in our state and bring in more jobs and economic development. The election results on Tuesday and the news today that Gray Tollison will be joining the Republican Party speaks to the appeal of our conservative values and vision for moving Mississippi forward. Gray will be a great addition to our team.”

And Tollison said this about the switch: “As a Republican, I can still hold firm to my core political beliefs of making Mississippi a better place to live by supporting education, encouraging jobs and economic development, working for efficient and effective government, and improving our criminal laws. I am committed to moving Mississippi up and – going forward – it will be done with the help of the Republican Party.”

We know some Republicans, or conservatives to be more exact, aren’t exactly thrilled with this news. Before the new legislature is sworn in, and during the course of the next four years, I expect that we will see more Democrats change parties. This is what happens when Democrats finally lose their grip on the South. Look at the party switches in Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia as the GOP took control in those formerly Democratic states.

On one side you can argue that they are opportunists, but at the same time you can say they are joining the party of their true beliefs rather having to run as a Democrat for political reason. What we have seen in states like Georgia and Alabama, two states that have demographics very similar to Mississippi, is that few white Democrats exist anymore after the tide changes. Right now 22 21 remain in the House and 8 in the Senate. This is just what happens with the transition. For better or worse, the Republican Party is now where decisions get made and there is one very good way to be involved in the process- be a Republican.

Democrats have liked to write off the loss of previous party switchers as no big deal. Whatever they may publicly say about Tollison, they understand this represents something bigger.

Update: Almost on cue, we have our first switcher in the House. Donnie Bell, again certainly no conservative, has joined the Republican Party. Bell’s story is slightly different than Tollison’s. While Tollison received a free pass on Tuesday, Bell had to fight off a hard charging Republican opponent. As I said on Twitter, when people like Bell are switching parties, the floodgates have fully opened. This move also takes away that glimmer of absentee ballot hope that Democrats may have had of being in the majority.

HD28: Double-Counting In South Cleveland

November 10, 2011

One of the races that the Associated Press has yet to make official is HD 28. This is the Delta seat previously held by Democrat David Norquist. He passed on re-election and unofficial numbers show Republican Tommy Taylor leading Democrat David Dallas 3,063 to 2,878.

I learned about some rather interesting happenings in this district over the past day or two. Here are some details: Dallas knows he lost and he has given up. He’s apparently turned off his phone and cut off communication. He is ready to concede but the state Democratic Party, still scratching and clawing for victories, won’t let him.

So what have they turned to? In the South Cleveland precinct, a heavy Democratic precinct I should add, they have tried to double count the whole precinct and then double count a machine. I am told they were showing more votes on Tuesday then in 2008 with Barack Obama on the top of the ballot. Lawyers from the GOP and Taylor stepped in to stop this. I don’t know where things stand now, but the GOP feels good about this one.

** Another race of interest that is still in the air is HD 73. I have been told the GOP has conceded HD 24 and HD 43, but haven’t given up on Jim Ellington’s seat. Down by about 130 votes in unofficial numbers, they feel that the precincts that the absentee ballots come from give the Republican hope. I believe counting began today; not sure on the expected finish date.

** In HD 83, Democrat Gary Houston formally conceded this afternoon. This surprised me somewhat that he would actually acknowledge defeat, but Greg Snowden has held on here for the Republicans.

** For HD 93, I am told that Dirk Dedeaux, who looks like he lost on Tuesday, is looking around for votes and that is part of the hold up on the AP calling this race. Currently, Republican Timmy Ladner leads 4,225 to 3,897.

** As Charles Busby looks like he has defeated Brandon Jones in HD 111, the Democrat said this about what he plans to do now: “We owe the election commissioners, circuit clerk, and circuit clerk staff our gratitude for the hard work they’ve put in over the last two days. After counting 5,926 votes, the unofficial tally shows a 35 vote difference. At this time, it is very important that we make sure every qualified vote is counted. We owe that to each person who participated in Tuesday’s election. This is our first opportunity to review the process so we’re going to take a short time to do that now.”

It Looks Like Busby Has Prevailed

November 10, 2011

I have just received word from folks on the ground in Jackson county that they are set to certify Charles Busby the winner in the hotly contested HD 111 battle. I don’t have the final numbers, but was told that he defeated Brandon Jones by 35 votes. A win here for the GOP would basically guarantee that the Republicans will have a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time since the 1800s.

In a press release, House Democrats said they aren’t conceding that they have lost yet, but the numbers aren’t looking good for them and it would take a miracle of absentee ballots and affidavits to go their way to hang on. The AP obviously hasn’t called HD 111 yet, but have also not called likely GOP pickups in HD 28, HD 93, and HD 121, which is probably why the Democrats are holding out hope. I have heard of issues in HD 28, but not in HD 93 and HD 121 so I don’t understand why they can’t call those.

Various Post-Election Day Observations

November 10, 2011

We have talked a lot about the statewide, Senate, and House results from Tuesday night, and here are a few post-election observations as we wrap that coverage up and begin to focus on what’s next:

** By now you’ve probably heard that the Democrat who is changing parties is Sen. Gray Tollison. In a move that didn’t really receive much press, Tollison actually endorsed Phil Bryant when he stopped in Oxford to campaign on Monday. You may also remember Tollison’s name as the candidate who received a pass when Delbert Hosemann and the election commission removed his challenger, Todd Wade, from the ballot. Funny how these things work out.

In the Republican caucus, Tollison will be on the more moderate side. I wouldn’t even call him the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, but I asked a Republican in the area about Tollison and he said he was definitely comfortable having Tollison in the party and believes it will help the GOP grow, particularly locally. Keep this in mind, prior to the election the Lafayette county delegation (SD 9, HD 10, HD 12, HD 13, HD 33) consisted of four Democrats and one Republican. After the switch it will be four Republicans and one Democrat, that being Tommy Reynolds.

** The question will now become are there any other switchers? I can identify at least a couple members in each chamber who would be candidates to switch and this is certainly something you traditionally see when the House or Senate flips from one party to another, particularly when it goes from Democratic to Republican in the South.

** We mentioned Buck Clarke and the district that he won in on the blog earlier. But it’s also worth pointing out Greg Snowden. Both of these Republicans won re-election in districts that are now majority-black. Certainly most majority-black districts are Democratic held, but these two Republicans have been able to survive in transitioning districts. That said; expect to see their districts get a little friendlier when the legislature wraps up redistricting.

** Many factors went it flipping the House, but the Tea Party and their ‘Move the House’ campaign has certainly played a large role. At times we have seen Tea Party groups more interested in defeating Republicans they are not happy with, but the group in Mississippi put in a lot of effort in electing conservatives and deserves credit for their work. In a press release, Move the House Committee Chairman Richard Wilbourn said, “Since the beginning of 2011, members of the Tea Party movement from around the State have focused their efforts on replacing Billy McCoy and his liberal House leadership with conservatives who better reflect the values of the people of Mississippi…Ultimately, this was a grassroots, volunteer effort by the members of the local Tea Parties who make up the Mississippi Tea Party and our generous donors. We look forward to working with each newly elected Tea Party endorsed representative and the next Speaker of the House to move our State forward towards better and brighter days.”

** We talked a good bit about Northeast Mississippi and the state’s House delegation prior to the election. Republicans picked up a number of seats here and the delegation has now gone from 16 Democrats and 11 Republicans to 15 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Keep in mind that heading into the 2003 elections; the delegation consisted of 25 Democrats, 1 Republican, and one independent. The times have changed in Northeast Mississippi.

** After being elected governor, Phil Bryant tapped former Appeals Court Judge and State Republican Party Chairman Jim Herring to head his Transition efforts. In a press release, Bryant said this about Herring: “I am grateful to have Judge Herring serve as my Transition Chairman. Judge Herring brings a vast amount of experience and talent to the table. In the days coming, Judge Herring and his team will help advise me on the challenging decisions required in preparation for beginning the new administration in January.”

Senate Dem To Switch Parties Today

November 10, 2011

Earlier this morning, the Mississippi Republican Party announced that they will be having a press conference at party headquarters to announce a “major development for Republicans in the Mississippi Senate.” I have been told it is to present the newest member of the Republican Party. A Democrat who won re-election on Tuesday will be changing parties.

There are only so many Democrats remaining who would be candidates to switch if you want to guess who it may be. The press conference is at 4 p.m. and will include Lt. Gov.-elect Tate Reeves, MSGOP Chairman Arnie Hederman, and members of the state Senate.

This move will give Republicans their 31st member in the 52-person chamber. We can say those numbers with confidence because Giles Ward has indeed been re-elected in his Senate district that covers Neshoba, Leake, and Winston counties. According to a press release from Ward, he received 8,882 votes compared to 8,731 for Democrat Steven Kilgore.

Ward issued this statement in declaring victory: “I am extremely humbled that the voters have honored me with the opportunity to serve them for the next four years. I want to thank those who supported me with their votes as well as those who voted for my able opponent. I am committed to serving all the citizens of District 18, regardless of political party, as we goforward during these difficult economic times. I ask for your prayers for Kay andme as we work together to forge a bright future for this district and for the State ofMississippi.”

Legislative Races Still Too Be Determined

November 10, 2011

As of this morning, we still have several races that have yet to be called by the Associated Press or that we have heard questions about. I don’t know as much about the people who have been in these districts, but here is the latest:

SD 18: Giles Ward has apparently won re-election although the race hasn’t officially been called. According to the Neshoba Democrat, Ward leads by about 150 votes or 50.43 versus 49.57 for Democrat Steven Kilgore. A GOP hold would give them 30 members in the Senate, and leave Democrats at just 22.

HD 24: Have heard nothing about this. Last numbers we have seen are the unofficial totals showing Democrat Kevin Horan leading Sid Bondurant by 145 votes. This would be a Democratic pickup.

HD 25: This was called for Republican Gene Alday on election day but some Democrats have complained that this race was left off some ballots in Coahoma county. What I have heard is that their weren’t enough votes in that precinct to flip the election even if John Mayo received 100 percent of them.

HD 28: Don’t know much about this race, but Republican Tommy Taylor is holding a 200 vote, four point, lead over Democrat David Dallas according to unofficial numbers. The GOP believes they have this won. Here is a story from the Bolivar Commercial about some election discrepancies.

HD 43: The numbers are showing Democrat Michael Evans up by about 140 votes over Russ Nowell. This would be a Democratic pickup, but I have heard some talk that their were some voting irregularities that Republicans want looked at.

HD 45: This was called for Bennett Malone last night with an 80 vote lead over Republican Jay Mathis. Democrat hold here, although I’ll go on the record and predict that this is Malone’s last term.

HD 73: The unofficial numbers show Democrat Brad Oberhousen leading Jim Ellington by about 130 votes. This would be a Democratic pickup. But remember, this is Hinds county. Look for final counting to wrap up within a mere couple months.

HD 83: Why the AP hasn’t called this is beyond me. They still don’t have Lauderdale numbers even though they’ve been out for a day. Democrats may challenge here but Greg Snowden has won. He received a majority plus he’s up by about 10 points in the three-man race. Apparently Gary Houston will hold a press conference today. If you have followed Houston, I doubt he will ever concede.

HD 93 & HD 121: Neither of these races have officially been called despite GOP leads of 300 and 400 here. A Sun Herald article yesterday called these for Timmy Ladner and Carolyn Crawford. The GOP has also declared victory in these South Mississippi seats.

HD 111: Lots of people are down in Jackson county right now trying to figure this one out. Absentee ballots were counted yesterday which ended with Republican Charles Busby clinging to a 57 vote lead with only affidavits remaining; this was a two vote gain for Busby. According to Mississippi Press, there are about 500 affidavits to be counted (or not counted).

Overall, nothing much has changed in the House. Republicans are looking at a net 9 seat gain (12 pickups, 3 loses), unless the affidavits flip HD 111. Either way, Republicans should be at at least 62 members in the House.

Could Be A Long 4 Years For Some Dems

November 9, 2011

This year a number of longtime Democrats, who entered the House when the party held 118 or 119 seats in that chamber, made the decision to retire. Perhaps they saw the sea change coming. This includes the likes of J.P. Compretta, Harvey Moss, Warner McBride, Jack Gadd, and most notably, Billy McCoy. Many other Democrats decided to stay on. Some have lost their re-election bid such as Diane Peranich and Dirk Dedeaux.

Then you have other Democrats who look like they will be coming back to a much different House. Bennett Malone is up by about 100 votes. He may or may not be back. Others such as Tommy Reynolds, Johnny Stringer and Steve Holland had an easier time, but the end result is the same.

Do you think Malone is going to be chairman of Corrections under a Republican Speaker? Or is Stringer going to hold on to his Appropriations chair? Or Holland, probably the most outspoken Democrat in Mississippi, is he going to remain as Public Health chair? And then there is Reynolds, the mastermind behind the House redistricting plan, you really think he’s going to chair Reapportionment? (If any of them are back in those chairs, Republicans should revolt against the leadership that put them there).

Rather, these men are likely to be placed on the sidelines as Republicans were for the past four years. When they see what it’s like on the “other side” for the first time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of these longtime incumbents decide to hang it up in four years.

And if the Democrats were indeed to lose nine seats, they would be at 59 members. Unless there was some change during the primaries that I am not aware of, 37 of those members are black. You can do that math and calculate that 22 are white. After the election four years ago, there were 38 white Democrats in the caucus. We can see which direction that is headed. This is very similar to what has happened in Alabama and Georgia, which have also shed their ancestral Democratic roots over the past few years.

GOP On The Verge Of Winning The House

November 9, 2011

A very good night across the board for Republicans, and the first thing I wanted to go over were the House results and where we stand this morning. Basically, control of the House depends on some early morning calls after they get through with absentee ballots and affidavits. If all stands as it is right now, Republicans would have picked up nine seats in the House, one more than needed for a majority.

The GOP needed eight seats, here is my math on the House:

Four GOP pickups have already been called:

In HD 19, Republican Randy Boyd unseated Mark DuVall, winning 62 percent of the vote. In the neighboring HD 20, incumbent Jimmy Puckett fell to Republican Chris Brown 56-44. Both these districts represent a shining reversal of the blow they dealt the GOP four years ago. Republican Gene Alday has unseated John Mayo in HD 25. I have heard Democrats talk of voting irregularities here but Alday is showing a commanding 57-43 win. And in HD 107, Republican Doug McLeod easily picked up the open seat previously held by Democrat Deryk Parker. McLeod defeated Douglas Lee 68-32.

Republicans are leading in the following Democratic held seats: HD 3 (previously held by Billy McCoy), HD 10, HD 13, HD 28, HD 93, HD 105, HD 111, HD 121. (Confirmed Republican pickups in bold).

That is 12 seats right there. The Democrats don’t have any official pickups yet, but are leading in these Republican held seats: HD 24, HD 43, HD 73. Greg Snowden hasn’t been declared the winner in HD 83 yet, but he has won 52% and is up by 10 points in a three-way race with all the precincts in. And Bill Denny will be back for another term in HD 64, the other Republican held seat we were worried about.

That is how I get to nine. Plus, there are a couple Democratic held seats where the Democrat is leading, but it hasn’t been called because of how close the vote is: HD 4 and HD 45.

We will have much more coverage throughout the day, and hopefully some of these undecided races will be called.

Update : The GOP is claiming victory in the House:

“In the House, Republicans Gene Alday, Randy Boyd, Chris Brown, Tommy Taylor, Carolyn Crawford, Doug McLeod, Timmy Ladner, Tracy Arnold, Nolan Mettetal, Steve Massengill, and Dennis DeBar have all received enough votes to ensure that outstanding ballots will not alter their victories.

Republicans Charles Busby also led his race for the Mississippi House, with only affidavit ballots yet to be counted.”

The GOP says they have 11 officially counted that will switch. If you subtract the three possible loses (Bondurant, Ellington, Nowell), then you get eight- the magic number. At that point, HD 111 become a battle for the 63rd seat and its outcome wouldn’t affect majority control.

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