Speaker Philip Gunn has emerged as a stronger figure in his second year at the helm of Mississippi House.
Last year, Gunn often seemed to be first among equals in a group of senior House Republicans. This year, he appears to be more firmly in charge. He has also managed to avoid getting permanently aligned with either Gov. Phil Bryant or Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, maintaining freedom of action as his own man.
The third-term Clinton lawmaker, who just turned 50, did a lot of spadework to get to this point, including years’ worth of lunches and dinners with House members to cultivate them as potential allies. He’s also got a sly, self-deprecating sense of humor that can defuse tense moments in the 122-member chamber.