As 2012 comes to an end, here's a look back at the top political headlines that captured our attention during the year.
If there was a question as to the conservative bent in Mississippi, 2012 removed all doubt.
The 2011 state elections gave Republicans control of both chambers in the Legislature along with seven of the eight statewide offices and majorities in the Transportation and Public Service commissions. Whether GOP leaders would be able to lead was left to be answered post election.
Republican leadership answered the call and went to work passing strong conservative legislation, such as the AG Sunshine Bill, and finalizing redistricting, a task Democratic leaders had left undone.
The Mississippi Republican Party continued its growth, attracting more party switchers and reaching into formerly Democratic strongholds. And it proved its staying power with special election victories.
The 2012 national election saw Congressmen Alan Nunnelee and Steven Palazzo along with Senator Roger Wicker win their first reelection attempt, while their tenured colleague Gregg Harper walked away with another resounding victory. The GOP continues to hold three of the four state Congressional seats.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney bested President Barack Obama, giving further evidence that Mississippi is firmly red even with the historic ground game and electioneering of the Obama team.
Municipal elections begin in earnest January 2nd and if such trends hold, Democrats could lose seats at the local level and Republicans just may be able to tear down the last wall of defense for liberals.
Over the years Democrats in Mississippi made a name for themselves consistently touting education, education, education. But it looks to be Republicans who will finally implement the next round of meaningful education reforms in Mississippi.
One of the few conservative pieces of legislation that did not get accomplished this year was charter schools. Since its demise at the hands of a few GOP members in the House Education Committee legislators have been inundated with conferences and gatherings aimed at educating them on the opportunity.
Also while out of session some wrangling has occurred and shifts on committees have taken place, most notably Republican Rep. Charles Busby replaced Democratic Rep. Linda Whittington on the House Education Committee. Busby's role cannot be overstated if indeed charter schools pass in 2013.
Democrats and state liberals will whine, but not because they couldn't get education reforms accomplished for the state's students when they were in charge, but because it is Republicans that are doing yeoman's work on an issue liberals believe they own.
It was revealed that an investigation by state and federal officials began at the Department of Marine Resources in late summer and in the months following the SunHerald has been one of the only news agencies to cover the saga as it unfolds.
Rumors and stories of hirings and land deals favoring family and friends of DMR continue to swirl, while no official action has been taken by the commission or the Governor's office.
One has to wonder how legislators will seek to exert influence on these rumblings as the 2013 session gets underway. Could a legislative hearing be on the horizon or will legislators call for a change of leadership at DMR?
More is expected to trickle out as the saga continues. The question is what it will mean for DMR, its leadership and employees, and the millions of dollars the agency oversees.
Convicted felon and prominent former attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs was released from prison. His star may not be as bright but it is still shining in many circles.
Where Scruggs shows up next and what influence he yields will be something to watch as he readjusts to life on the outside.
Bryant not Barbour
Governor Phil Bryant took office this year following Haley Barbour, a feat few would relish given Barbour's prominence in GOP circles. Many questioned whether Bryant could be his own man and not get lost in Barbour's shadow.
Phil Bryant emerged as a steady hand to lead Mississippi and the comparisons to Barbour have all but ended. Bryant is indeed his own man and while he may not use the office's bully pulpit quite as Barbour would, his presence is none the less influential.
Barbour's 'pardongate' was just the thing Bryant needed to make a clean break and along with other policy differences, Bryant has carefully set himself apart while continuing to promote Republican ideals and strong leadership.
Chaney and the Exchanges
Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, a Republican, has been in the news quite a bit this year and he has taken a few hits in conservative circles.
Chaney is working to implement health insurance exchanges as required by Obamacare. His position is that Mississippi should be in charge of these exchanges instead of the federal government and his job is to ensure that happens while also complying with the law.
Many in his own party have taken issue with Chaney's position on the exchanges and want him to cease, placing Mississippi in the pack of states openly opposing implementation.
Look for discussion on the exchanges during the 2013 legislative session and heightened rhetoric from both political and special interest groups as the debate ramps up yet again.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is the point man for Mississippi's Voter ID initiative and he's diligently taking on the critics, including Obama's Department of Justice.
Mississippi passed Voter ID with 62% of the vote in 2011 and the state legislature approved a bill this year to implement the measure.
While the DOJ is methodically stifling such measures, Hosemann is leading the charge to ensure the wishes of the people of Mississippi are accomplished.
What transpires in 2013 on Voter ID is anyone's guess but Hosemann's office is ready for the next round.
So there you have it, folks - our list of the top political headlines in Mississippi for 2012.
Politics in Mississippi isn't a spectator sport and we expect 2013 to be just as intriguing. As always, Yall Politics will be here offering commentary and analysis as it unfolds.
Thank you for reading in 2012. Stay tuned for the year ahead.
Posted December 27, 2012 - 4:01 pm