Which party will control the House?

With Tuesday’s primary elections removing a layer of doubt over just who will comprise the 122 members of the Mississippi House of Representatives when they convene in 2012, the “other” race that’s under way for a major leadership post advanced this week along with the primary results for governor and lieutenant governor.

Under the 1890 Mississippi Constitution, the true power in state government resides in the Legislature, with the governor enjoying far less authority. And for more than a century, that was the way of things at the state Capitol.

Gov. Haley Barbour turned that reality on its political head during his two terms in office, by virtue of the installation of Washington-style party discipline and by the sheer force of his own power within the state’s GOP and the fear of his intervention in the races of individual members.

Barbour particularly held sway in the state Senate, where Republicans held a 27-to-25 majority before the death of Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, earlier this year.

Barbour’s ability to turn that constitutional “weak governor” paradigm around not only required his unique skills and strategies, but the loyalty and support of Amy Tuck and Phil Bryant. Bryant in particular has been a solid soldier in support of Barbour’s agenda over the past four years.

Sid Salter
8/3/11