Shift in the House

It was the night of Nov. 6, 2007, and a handful of Republicans in Mississippi were cussing voter turnout. Certainly there was celebration at the reelection of Gov. Haley Barbour with 58 percent of the vote, along with the retention or capture of six other statewide seats by the GOP. The Republican tide brought in one of the best election nights in modern Mississippi GOP history. Despite those victories, Republicans were not turning out like legislative candidate needed.

Barbour won re-election by a greater percentage than his initial election, but he did so with 40,000 fewer votes than four years prior. Had those missing voters turned out as targeted by Republicans in selected legislative districts, Barbour would have governed with a conservative (albeit a Democrat) Speaker of the House in his second term.

The handful of seats the GOP missed due to low turnout cost control of the House of Representatives. When the vote for Speaker tied on the first day of the legislative session at 61 for sitting Speaker Billy McCoy (D-Rienzi) and 61 for conservative Representative Jeff Smith (D-Columbus), one more Republican vote for Smith would have shifted control; meanwhile Republicans had lost one seat in a Gulf Coast Republican district by 11 votes to Brandon Jones (D-Pascagoula).

Madison County Journal