There were few surprises Tuesday as Mississippi voters went to the polls. Here’s a quick take on how it played out:
The seven Republican statewide incumbents cruised to reelection (all with 60% or greater), but that’s what happens when Democrats put up the “Silent Knight” who doesn’t even vote for himself in the primary and an Elvis impersonator who switched parties at the top of their ticket in Mississippi, while failing to help fund and effectively coordinate their campaigns.
The one race that was in the spotlight and held high hopes for both sides was Attorney General. Jim Hood – “The Last Democrat in Dixie” – won a fourth and likely final term over Republican challenger Mike Hurst even on a night filled with GOP wins down ticket, further solidifying the reality that Hood has real crossover appeal. However, Hurst gave Hood perhaps the best race thus far, and had his campaign finance numbers been a tad better it very well may have been even closer.
Expect Hurst to be called on again by the GOP in the future.
House Republicans won big Tuesday, drawing within one of a supermajority. Unofficial results show the House GOP with 73 seats, winning all open seats but losing one incumbent to a Democrat.
Rep. Brad Mayo was the one incumbent Republican casualty.
The biggest news has to be the defeat of House Democrat Leader Bobby Moak. Back in May, State GOP Chair Joe Nosef called his shot in a Clarion Ledger article saying that while Moak was full of bluster about Democrats’ chances, it was his own seat that the GOP was targeting… and they got it.
Moak’s absence will leave an opportunity for the next generation of Democrats to step up as Leader, perhaps David Baria.
Baria, who was facing a tough reelection challenge, initially led by 45 votes but after absentees were tallied it bumped up to 103. The Republican challenger, Mickey Lagasse, has indicated there are some questions to be answered over vote counts before he concedes. We will watch as that unfolds.
Speaking of McCoy, his old House seat won by Republican Tracy Arnold in 2011 remained in GOP hands with Arnold defeating the daughter of former Congressman Travis Childers, who ran a lackluster effort.
Over in the Senate, Republicans will likely hold a 35-17 majority. Perhaps the only real race where a Democrat pick up was possible was versus Sen. Melanie Sojourner. With 100% reporting, Sojourner looks to have defeated Bob Dearing in a rematch by less than 100 votes, but we are still awaiting the final tally with absentees and affidavits.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn are well positioned to pass significant legislative reforms with these majorities, but they will still need to be responsive to Democrat concerns as a bicameral supermajority does not exist. However, Mississippi conservative voters expect substantial progress on advancing their agenda and will be vocal if such actions are not taken.
May I suggest three legislative actions while education is a hot topic: 1). All elected school boards. 2). All appointed superintendents. 3). Significant revision of MAEP to prioritize the formula of dollars actually going into the classroom and not just to “school district administration,” with a caveat added to measure classroom results.
I have not been shy in expressing my disdain for 42. I’ve spent much time writing and speaking against 42, not because I’m against public education (my two children attend public schools) but because I value fiscal sanity and our representative government, and I abhor playing Robin Hood with tax dollars, pitting one area against another. I am personally glad that Mississippi voters pulled the wool from their eyes and saw what Initiative 42 was selling wasn’t what it appeared.
Some have questioned the wisdom of the Legislature offering an alternative in 42A. Clearly, doing so made it a referendum on changing the state constitution, which should give us all pause, instead of allowing the Democrats to pass 42 off as a funding measure as easily as they had hoped. Adding the alternative provided a mechanism which cultivated discussion that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.
I do think this episode will advance the education conversation in the Legislature in 2016. How, exactly, is anyone’s guess at this point.
It was a bad night for Mississippi Power. The Kemper Plant was the number one issue in these races. With Democrats now in the majority – Brandon Presley reelected in the North and Cecil Brown winning the Central – expect a shift in how this hot button issue is addressed.
New Southern PSC Sam Britton, the lone Republican, will have to wade in and see how his being in the minority plays out with the two strong Democrats seated next to him. Britton ran a strong race and won even in the face of some GOP legends like Clark Reed endorsing his Democrat opponent.
Republicans had a big night, even with the overall statewide turnout being significantly less than 2011; their statewide majorities were solid. They are now one Democrat absence away from a supermajority in the House. That’s a HUGE win for them. They targeted and knocked off the House Minority Leader, Bobby Moak. They unseated other Democratic stalwarts and were competitive in most races. Democrats did effectively pick up the majority in the PSC and held serve with the AG’s race, but they came up snake eyes on 42. At the end of the day, Democrats faced a net loss.
Jockeying for the 2019 state races begins today. Tate Reeves is the clear front runner for Governor, leaving an open Lt. Governor’s seat. It’s highly likely at least one of the current statewides will jump in for LG creating a domino effect. Plus, I’d expect a few not to seek reelection the next go round.
Republicans have a deep bench for 2019. Democrats, however, well… there’s always another Robert Gray waiting in the wings.
2016 will be worth watching as well. A congressional race or two could draw a legislator to try and unseat an incumbent, particularly in the 4th District. I’ll let you guess who that might be.
For now, thank you all for reading and sharing our election news and analysis during this cycle. We appreciate your support and look forward to the next rodeo real soon.
But before we forget, tonight was the second statewide election with Voter ID. There was not a single column inch of newsprint dedicated to problems that resulted in disenfranchising voters or that it “suppressed voters.” It did neither. It was a non-event. It was hyped by a hysterical few in the Democrat-for-a-living media class. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann should again be congratulated.
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.