Phil Bryant had a rough week. By proposing an alternative map to Sen. Terry Burton’s map to improve the circumstances for Hattiesburg Republicans, he put a lot on the line. Bryant got shot down decisively, but Bryant was defiant saying, in essence, “it was the right thing to do.” Time will tell whether the political juice he gains with Republican insiders in the Pine Belt was worth the squeeze.
Regardless, Burton’s Senate plan will be what’s coming from the Senate chamber. As of today, Burton’s plan is resting in the Senate on a motion to reconsider. It’s likely to stay bottled up procedurally in the Senate until mid-week. Meanwhile, House Republicans are having some time to plan and galvanize for when the Senate Plan comes to the House.
Here’s the most likely scenario I’ve heard. The Senate Plan (Burton’s plan) will come to the House. The House will put Tommy Reynolds’ plan as an amendment to it and pass it, largely along party lines. That will put the ball back into the Senate. The Senate would then be put in a position to concur/not concur on the joint plan. That vote on concurrence will be the largest political vote of the decade. EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN SENATOR should be asked in advance, in writing and in public, “how will you vote to concur or not-concur?” There’s no middle ground.
Here are the dynamics.
1. Republicans will have the raw numbers to win on the non-concurrence vote. However, there are some old-line rural Republicans that might defect. Keep your eyes on Senators Burton, Ezell Lee, Albritton, & Gollott. They all may have different reasons for wanting to concur (“We’ve always done it this way” or “I’ve got a good district drawn” or “I don’t want to run twice”), but this is part of the freight for being as a Republican. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta toe the line.
2. Democratic legislators are going into hysterics about having two elections and using it as political leverage to force Republicans to accept a bad deal dictated entirely on the Democrats’ terms. If someone has a gun pointed at your head, just take out the bullets. Republicans should be thinking “So what if we have two elections? Republicans are better organized and better funded. Plus, there is a highly likely chance that the Republicans would win the Speaker in the House under the current maps.” Sure, having two elections is not optimal, but it’s better than getting crammed down on a bad plan. So, during the second election, Republicans would have a Republican Gov/Lt. Gov, a Republican House and a Republican Senate. That’s a much better position to run from. Plus, a Republican-led House would have some time to audition for voters. As an added bonus, Barack Obama will presumably be on the top of the ticket for Democrats (and a guy named Haley Barbour may be at/near the top of that 2012 ballot, too). If anything, Republicans should be thinking that the threat of running twice is leverage to make Democrats come back with something that is fair.
3. If Republicans in the Senate can get this to conference, they should win. Here’s why. First, having three judges draw the new lines will likely take most of the politics out of it. Democrats know it and are deathly afraid of it. Judges will try to accommodate for population shifts and make sure that the appropriate majority-minority districts are accounted for. That’s about all. Judges won’t be looking to draw in/out competitors to seats like we have seen on the House and Senate sides.
4. The vote for concurrence in the Senate will in essence be a vote for Speaker of the House. It should be considered a straight up/down vote on Billy McCoy. If it goes to conference and the Senate doesn’t concur, we run on our current districts and McCoy would likely be out. Senators will have a huge say about whether or not Billy McCoy stays as Speaker and it needs to be couched in those terms. Republican Senators should not hang their colleagues in the House out to dry.
5. This is a partisan battle and no one needs to be ashamed of that. Remember tort reform in 2003? Remember the gnashing of teeth and how Democrats said that there would be 40 years of darkness if that legislation passed? Guess what, Republicans were demonized through the process, but came out politically on the right side with the public (and have made substantial gains since then). Your opponents and the public will like you when you do the right thing and win.
Folks, call your House members. Call your Senators. Find out where they stand. They do react to their phones ringing and their emails stacking up.
We will continue to keep an eye on it.