Analysis: Empower Mississippi overcomes some GOP doubters

That triumph came even despite opposition from some Republicans. House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, endorsed all the DeSoto incumbents who lost. Multiple Empower board members resigned, while another said he was pressured to quit.

The conflict came down to this: four years after Republicans had won control of the state House for the first time in more than a century, was it a good idea to target incumbent Republicans who were insufficiently conservative on some issues?

For Callen, the answer was yes.

“We believed in the rightness of our cause,” he said. “Having detractors is not new for me and it wasn’t surprising at all through this process.”

But Charlie Ross, a former state lawmaker who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2007 and Congress in 2008, left the board saying he wanted to focus elsewhere.

“In general, I am not one that thinks we should spend our time going after other Republicans,” Ross said in June. “I think we should focus on going after Democrats.”