Studio portrait of Sid Salter. (photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)

By: Sid Salter

All of the nation’s top election prognosticators – FiveThirtyEight.com’s Nate Silver, University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato, Charlie Cook, and Real Clear Politics – are offering projections and hedging bets over whether Republicans or Democrats will control the House and Senate after the 2022 midterm elections.

With extreme political polarization, high inflation, supply chain and chip shortages and geopolitical upheaval in Europe driving fear and uncertainty among voters and a high turnout anticipated, the debates are nothing but interesting. In Mississippi, there’s more certitude. But based on the outcome, watch the congressional committee system influence.

Neither of the state’s two U.S. senators is engaged in re-election bids in 2022, but both Sen. Roger Wicker, R- Tupelo, and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Brookhaven, have a lot on the line in the 2022 midterm elections.

Should the GOP take the majority in the U.S. Senate, Wicker is in line to become chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Wicker would be the first Mississippian since legendary former U.S. Sen. John C. Stennis, D-DeKalb, held the post,

The value of that chairmanship given Mississippi’s substantial military infrastructure, the state’s large Gulf Coast shipbuilding and central and north Mississippi aerospace/missile technology industries, and the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County is difficult to overestimate. Wicker is currently the ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee with seats on the Environment and Public Works, and Rules committees, and a ranking member on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission).

Hyde-Smith, with current seats on the powerful Agriculture, Appropriations, Energy and Natural Resources, and Rules committees, is likewise expected to advance in the committee and subcommittee system with a GOP majority.

The 2022 midterm elections and subsequent control of the U.S. House will also impact Mississippi’s House delegation. Changes in the committee and subcommittee system are also at play in these races.

Incumbent First District U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Tupelo, faces Democrat Diane Black in the general election. Kelly holds seats on the House Armed Services and Agriculture committees with subsequent key subcommittee assignments including Intelligence and Special Operations, and Seapower and Projection Forces. He holds a seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Currently the state’s only House committee chair, incumbent Second District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, faces Republican Brian Flowers on Nov. 8. Thompson chairs the House Homeland Security Committee and chairs the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

Thompson, 74, has achieved “congressman for life” status in the state’s Second District and should cruise to re-election to a seat he’s held since 1993.

Incumbent Third District U.S. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Brandon, faces Democrat Shuwaski A. Young in the general election. Guest was forced into a second GOP primary with challenger Michael Cassidy but won that contest by a 2-to-1 margin and is expected to win in November.

Guest holds seats on the House Ethics, Homeland Security, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees with multiple subcommittee assignments.

After incumbent Fourth District U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo of Gulfport was rejected in the GOP first primary by almost 68 percent of the district’s voters, he faced a second primary runoff against Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell.

Remarkably, the other GOP challengers to Palazzo joined forces the next day to formally endorse Ezell in the runoff. Ezell prevailed to win the GOP nomination and faces Democrat Johnny DuPree and Libertarian Alden Johnson in the general election. Ezell is expected to hold the seat for the GOP.

Palazzo’s ouster will cost Mississippi a seat on the House Appropriations Committee and two relevant subcommittees. Seeing an incumbent congressperson with an Appropriations seat lose in a primary is not something one sees very often – but that may prove the biggest surprise of the 2022 Mississippi midterms.