At stake in the election to be decided by House members next month is one of the most powerful positions in state government. The speaker guides legislation by appointing committee chairmen, assigning bills to them and persuading or discouraging their passage.
If Smith topples McCoy, it would be considered a coup for Republicans, who also preside over the Senate, and a defeat for Democrats, who want to keep the GOP’s power in check.
The next speaker could determine how well Barbour’s proposals are received over his remaining four years. McCoy and Barbour have differed on several issues, including a tax swap opposed by Barbour that would cut grocery taxes while raising the tax on cigarettes.