The first Mississippi Republican Speaker of the House in some 140 years released the chamber’s committee assignments Friday. The effort is the most bi-partisan, inclusive House committee appointments in the state’s history.
Gunn, like Lt. Governor Tate Reeves on the Senate side, kept the appointments extremely close to the vest telling one media outlet, “I didn’t tell anybody.”
As House Clerk Andrew Ketchings read the appointments aloud, members and media wrote furiously trying to capture the historic moment.
Here are the committee appointments by the numbers. Of course, there are 64 Republicans in the House and 58 Democrats.
10 Democratic chairs and 22 Democratic vice chairs
30 Republican chairs and 16 Republican vice-chairs
Given there are more Democratic Vice-Chairs than Republicans means Gunn, House Pro Tem Greg Snowden and newly hired senior staff Nathan Wells mixed things up a lot. Just in case anyone in the media is keeping score, former Speaker Billy McCoy, over whom the Mississippi media elite swooned and fawned over, appointed exactly ZERO chairs and only a handful of vice chairs from the minority party.
There are 6 female chairs and 7 female vice chairs
There are 34 male chairs and 31 male vice chairs
There are 8 African American chairs and 15 African American vice chairs
There are 32 White chairs and 23 White vice chairs
Like Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Gunn and his team spread power around, but kept it tight where it was the most important. Among the most notable committee leaders are:
* Appropriations Chair – Herb Frierson (R)
* Ways and Means – Jeff Smith (R)
* Apportionment and Elections – Bill Denny (R)
* Education – John Moore (R)
* Public Health – Sam Mims (R)
* Jud A – Mark Baker (R)
* Jud B – Andy Gipson (R)
These seven are the go-to leadership team. Both Frierson and Smith were Speaker candidates within the Republican caucus. Perhaps Gunn is taking a play out of Ole Abe’s book with these appointments. Gunn did note to the press following the announcement that both Frierson and Smith were repeatedly mentioned by members in a very positive light.
Unlike former Democratic Speaker Billy McCoy, Gunn did not shy away from placing the opposite political party as chairs and vice chairs. Ten House Democrats will chair committees. A few of the committees to be led by House Democrats are:
* Energy – Angela Cockerham
* Agriculture – Preston Sullivan
* Corrections – George Flaggs
* Transportation – Robert Johnson
Former and current House Democratic Caucus leadership did not fair well, however. Names like Bobby Moak, Cecil Brown, Johnny Stringer, Tommy Reynolds, and Steve Holland are not prominent any longer in the House.
It should be noted that the Legislative Black Caucus did receive a good bit of consideration and a fair number of committee leadership roles.
Again, in true YallPolitics fashion, I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen. First of all, there will still be significant complaints about the partisanship of Gunn and his team. You’ll hear it from House Democrats for sure. It will be interesting to see if the media elite call Gunn’s appointments (like Reeves’ appointments) for what they are . . . historic. Billy McCoy was given an incredibly huge pass by the media elite who threw their hands up at his lack of inclusiveness and basically said, “that’s politics”. Gunn could have easily listened to a group of Republicans who rightly wanted full control and retribution for McCoy’s ways and relegated Democrats to the dark ages politically, but McCoy’s machine, mob-boss style politics is now one that has been thrown by the wayside. Gunn and Reeves have both politically insulated themselves from attacks in the media and from the minority party that Democrats don’t have a voice or a seat at the table. They do and they do in a historic way not seen in Mississippi in generations, if ever.
The new House committee chairs will now find their offices and begin outlining their committee’s work in earnest. Stay tuned here as we follow their work and highlight what’s to come next out of this historic legislative session.