Smith sees growing support in speaker campaign

Jeff Smith of Columbus said he’s gaining more support among legislative colleagues to be House speaker and is pushing hard for a vote next month to unseat incumbent Billy McCoy of Rienzi.

McCoy has made public the names of enough House members to re-elect him, but Smith said he’s confident he can cajole some to his side when the actual vote is taken Jan. 8.

“I do anticipate the matter going to a (House) vote on the 8th, unless Billy decides to back off when he sees I have actual verifiable numbers,” Smith said.

Based on the counts made by the two speaker candidates, McCoy has 63 votes committed to him and Smith has 59 in the House of Representatives.

Both candidates are Democrats, but Smith is relying on Republicans as his main source of support in the Democratic-dominated House. It currently has 47 Republicans.

Smith said he doesn’t want to make public the names of those committed to making him leader of the 122-member House until he knows for sure he’s got a majority. However, he’s previously said he had most of the House on his side.

Since the day after Mississippi’s Nov. 6 general election, McCoy has shown assurances the House majority will re-elect him speaker for his second term when the new Legislature takes office Jan. 8.

Getting several black state representatives on Smith’s side is considered the key for him to win.

“I have a handful of black members ready to sign on with me, but I do not frankly want their names out there,” Smith said.

He said he doesn’t want to expose them to pressure as the arm-twisting takes place leading up to the vote in three weeks.

“I have never seen a race where pressure is continuously put on members as they commit, or rumor of commitment is assumed,” he said.

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