While all eyes seemed locked on the leader of the next Mississippi House of Representatives race between Speekah Billy McCoy and Representative Jeff Smith, there is an interesting behind the scenes campaign going on to determine the key leadership position in the next Phil Bryant-led Senate.
Several names for leadership have bubbled to the top of the list including Senator Billy Hewes from Gulfport, Senator Tommy Gollot from Biloxi, Senator Tom King from Petal, and Senator Alan Nunnelee from Tupelo. While all of these four would likely wind up with plum committee chair assignments, the behind-the-scenes race is on for Senate Pro Tem, which is the top of the heap for internally elected leaders in the Senate body. Of the four mentioned, it will likely come down to a three man race between Hewes, Gollott and King.
Senate Pro Tem is a very powerful spot, and that position is charged principally with guiding legislation through the committee process and serving as a force on the floor. With a 28-24 Democratic lead, it is not intuitive that the odds-on leaders for Senate Pro Tem would be Republicans, but given that there are many conservative Democrats counted among the 28, it is all but inevitable that the Senate Pro Tem will have an R next to his name.
Tom King functionally threw his hat in the ring on the Paul Gallo show shortly after the election. However, having only been in the Senate for six years, King may not hold the sway that longer tenure would convey. Tommy Gollott, you’ll remember, switched recently from Democrat to Republican and ran Republican in this last election. The winds around the Capitol seem to be blowing strongly in support of Billy Hewes. Hewes, an insurance agent by trade, has been a reliable conservative voice in the Senate since 1992.
This race will take place largely behind the scenes over the coming weeks, but will have huge implications for who will hold the reins in the Mississippi legislature. Though it will not likely be the public arm-twisting exercise that is currently taking place on the House side, it is an intense battle for a very few necessary votes and newly elected Senators will hold a lot of influence in this race.