Political winds often shift quickly and for Democrats in the Magnolia State, it has been a hurricane of epic proportions. The Republican Party in Mississippi is now THE place to be whether you are seeking a seat on your local City Council or running for Congress. Such was not the case just last year.
Conservatives in Mississippi are now firmly settling in with the GOP and rejecting a floundering liberal Democratic Party that continues to follow the path of their national counterparts. Call it guilt by association if you will but as the old saying goes, “When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.”
The result is a slowly fading Mississippi Democratic Party and an ever growing bench of future Republican candidates.
In true Yall Politics fashion, here’s a list of up and coming Republicans to watch over the coming years with a little added commentary to spark the emerging discussion:
1). Chris McDaniel (State Senator) – McDaniel has positioned himself as a strong voice of conservatism over the last few years. The District 42 senator is the attorney for Governor Phil Bryant in an Obamacare suit and is a frequent speaker around the state at County Executive Committees, Tea Party groups, and other conservative gatherings. A “Friends of Chris McDaniel for US Senate” Facebook group is now online further raising the speculation that McDaniel is eyeing a run for higher office, perhaps taking aim at the seat held by Thad Cochran in 2014.
2). Philip Gunn (Speaker of the House) – Gunn has quickly reached the pinnacle of the Mississippi House of Representatives, having only served in the chamber since 2004 and being named Speaker in 2012, a meteoric rise to say the least. Gunn, an attorney, still has many years left in public service. It is conceivable that he could very well seek higher office at some point either in Congress or statewide given his personal successes as well as the efficiency and leadership he has shown in just one session as Speaker. As his profile rises around the state, so too will the calls for Gunn to consider other moves.
3). Chip Johnson (Mayor of Hernando) – Johnson has taken on childhood obesity and pushed nationally for healthy communities, an issue many in Mississippi are focused on these days. He has even been recognized across party lines by the Obama administration for his community efforts. The two term Mayor is the current President of the Mississippi Municipal League. Being from growing DeSoto County doesn’t hurt Johnson either.
4). Michael Guest (District Attorney for Madison and Rankin Counties) – Guest is rising the ladder in conservative ranks and fast. His record of actively pursuing criminals is strong, having closed over 10,000 cases during his tenure. Guest knows how to work social and traditional media to get results. Some see Guest as a possible Mississippi Attorney General candidate come 2015.
5). Brice Wiggins (State Senator) – Wiggins, a former Assistant District Attorney in Jackson County, is a freshman legislator that has quickly ascended into Lt. Governor Tate Reeves’ circle. The District 52 senator was named Chairman of Ports and Harbors by Reeves and is considered one of the most influential new Senators in the upper chamber. His legislative tenure could be a long one.
6). Sally Doty (State Senator) – Doty won election to the upper chamber last year and is an active part of the Senate Republican team. She has the potential to be a player in the legislature for a long while and could one day vie for higher office, just as her District 39 predecessor Cindy Hyde-Smith (current Commissioner of Agriculture). Republican women in Mississippi should never be overlooked.
7). Tony Lawrence (District Attorney for Jackson, George and Greene Counties) – Lawrence has served as District Attorney since 2003. His work prosecuting crimes against children, specifically cyber crimes, and efforts to ensure victims’ rights have consistently received praise from many both in the community and among his colleagues. As we have reported, Lawrence is considering a run for Mississippi Attorney General in 2015.
8). Melanie Sojourner (State Senator) – Sojourner is another up and coming Republican woman in the legislature. She was one of a few freshmen to receive a chairmanship from Lt. Governor Tate Reeves. The District 37 senator has emerged as a strong voice in the upper chamber and has potential for a long legislative tenure or even higher, just as her colleague Doty.
9). Steve Seale (Former State Senator) – Seale served one term in the Mississippi Senate before going to work with former US Senator Trent Lott. He has since returned to Mississippi and has been a successful lobbyist around the Capitol. Seale’s Central Mississippi ties could bode well for future opportunities, one of which appears to be a run for Mississippi Attorney General in 2015. His intentions are not veiled as some others appear to be thus far, having sent out an email in the wake of the Obamacare ruling by the Supreme Court directly challenging Democratic AG Jim Hood’s lack of action.
10). Quentin Whitwell (Jackson City Councilman) – Whitwell is the Ward 1 Councilman in the Capitol City. His connections and experience have positioned Whitwell as a future player either in the legislature, should he choose, or for state office. It’s not easy being a conservative on the Jackson City Council, but Whitwell has honed his message through social media and has brought forth policy changes that are helping Jackson shift its ideological core to the right for the betterment of its citizens.
There are dozens of other Republicans we could mention on this Watchlist from City Halls to the Capitol but for the sake of time and space, we’ll reign in our enthusiasm at the depth of the conservative bench.
Perhaps a follow-up to this piece focusing on Democrats is in order. I’ll see if I can find their phone booth.