The Mississippi State Capitol was abuzz today with legislators, lobbyist and staffers scurrying about but what was most notable was the presence of everyday Mississippians. Before the 2015 session was gaveled to order, citizens from across Mississippi gathered to let their representatives and senators know what issues they wanted to see brought to the forefront in what promises to be a very interesting session.
Dueling rallies were held on both ends of the capitol. Moral Movement Mississippi, a coalition of faith, labor, civil rights, immigrant, and various community organizations across Mississippi, held a rally on the steps of the capitol where dozens of state employees, teachers and activists gathered to call for pay raises for Mississippi’s state employees and teachers and for the legislature to fully fund the MAEP. MASE/CWA President Brenda Scott, MAE Executive Director Frank Yates and Tyson Jackson were just a few of the speakers who rallied the faithful. Scott opened the rally with her rendition of Pete Seeger’s “If I had a hammer” which has long been a staple of the progressive movement. Rep. Sherra Hillman-Lane of Waynesboro was there in support.
On the Senate side of the capitol, an anti Common Core rally was held and at times had a tent revival feel to it. Sens. Angela Burks Hill and Michael Watson, flanked by Sens. Tony Smith and Phillip Gandy, spoke to the packed room of supporters. Senators Hill and McDaniel have led the charge over the last 2 years and there just may be enough support now that Lt. Gov. Reeves has signaled he is on board and Gov. Bryant has lent his support. The star of the show however was Rev. C.L Bryant, a Shreveport Baptist preacher. Bryant opened his remarks by saying “today is a good day to fight a fight for the republic and strike a blow for freedom”.
There should be very little doubt that pay raises for Mississippi’s teachers and state employees, funding MAEP and common core will be the top political issues of this session and political season.
How redistricting could shape House Democratic Caucus in 2015 and Beyond
After seizing control of the state Legislature in 2011, Republicans in charge of drawing new political boundaries marginalized black voters in an attempt to get rid of white Democrats. Republicans under Chairman Bill Denny in the state house and Sen. Terry Burton in the senate created unnecessarily large black majorities in dozens of already majority black house and senate districts which were already over 50% black which had the effect of removing reliable Democratic voters in districts held by white Democrats.
After the 2011 elections, there were 21 White Democratic House members and 10 in the senate. Currently that number now is 17 and 8 respectfully after 3 house members; Reps Donnie Bell of Mantachie; Jason White of West and Randall Patterson of Biloxi all switched to GOP while counterparts in the senate; Nickey Browning of Pontotoc and Gray Tollison of Oxford followed suit.
The 2015 legislative elections, which will be held under the new lines, could potentially see the number of white Democratic legislators cut in half as several are now compacted into the same districts and others are retiring due to their districts becoming either majority minority or more Republican.
Democratic Reps. Johnny Stringer of Montrose and Blaine “Bo” Eaton are now collapsed into House District 79 which currently is held by Eaton; Reps. Bennett Malone of Carthage and Rep. Michael Evans of Preston are now in District 45 which is currently held by Malone; Reps. Linda Whittington of Schlater and Rep. Kevin Horan of Grenada are now in District 34 which is now held by Whittington. Districts 45 and 34 are both newly created majority minority districts as well making it highly likely that a credible African American can run and win the Democratic Primary. Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville saw his district go from 31% black to 56 % making it a majority black district now.
Jackson Democratic Rep. Brad Oberhousen’s district was collapsed into Reps. Addriene Wooten (Dist. 71), Credell Calhoun (Dist. 68) and Greg Holloway’s (Dist. 76) districts, making way for a new Madison County centered Republican district. Oberhousen likely will face Wooten should he decide to run for re-election. Because African Americans were packed into super majority districts, they were diminished in surrounding districts as a result. Currently there are 56 House Democrats with 35 being African American. After the dust has settled in November there could be as many as 42 African American House Democrats.
The other side to this coin is there will now be more African Americans represented by Republicans. The bulk of the compactness of already super majority districts was achieved by reducing the number of split precincts, placing many large black precincts in places like Oxford, Southaven, Gulfport, and in Metro Jackson into GOP majority Districts while conversely making 55% black districts now 75% black.
It remains to be seen what effect the 2012 redistricting will have on the makeup of the Democratic caucus beyond November. Democrats have vowed to make an aggressive play at reclaiming the majority in the statehouse. They’ll certainly target endangered GOP members and likely go after open seats. Moreover, they’ll certainly have their work cut out for them.
View from the ground: The IN’s, The OUT’s and the MAYBE’s
Seeking to raise money for next year’s 2015 elections, state Democratic legislators have been fundraising at a feverish pace. The fact that nearly 20 Democratic legislators have been out filling their coffers, speaks volumes about the party’s desire to retake the house in 2015. Members are energized by the intra-party fighting going on over on Yazoo Street.
With no clear gubernatorial front-runner in their party, Democrats are in shopping mode for statewide candidates as well. Leading candidate, Brandon Presley, opted out of running statewide and is on track to cruise to re-election to his Northern District PSC post. Bay St. Louis Rep. David Baria also passed on the chance to run statewide and has filed to run for his coastal legislative seat showing signs that the top Democratic brass has been unable to convince the Democratic rising stars that the support was there. They are looking for someone who could appeal to – or at least not offend – the progressive wing of the party while not alienating blue dog Democrats who have been quietly voting Republican over the last couple of election cycles.
Other Democrats being mentioned for statewide offices, who have yet to rule them out are: Senator Derrick Simmons of Greenville: Lt. Governor; Senator David Blount of Jackson: Sec. of State; Democratic Trusts’ Brandon Jones: Insurance Commissioner; Marshand Crisler: Transportation Commissioner Central District; Addie Green: PSC Central District
Don’t think for one minute that the Republican’s across the Magnolia State are resting on their laurels. The party has been raising money for the past year for its United Republican Fund. Prominent GOP heavyweights have barnstormed the state often raising cash for both the state party and county party organizations. Republicans control nearly all of state government with the exception being the Attorney General’s office and the Northern District Public Service Commissioners post but in 2015 they will seek to run the table. Democrats Jim Hood and Brandon Presley have proven to be anomalies. Exceptions to the rule, they both not only garner more votes than their GOP opponents but they remain wildly popular with broad swaths of Democrats and Republicans statewide. Possible Republican’s looking at running for AG in 2015 includes Jackson County D.A. Tony Lawrence and Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon, and Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula.
Other Republicans being mentioned for statewide offices, who have yet to rule them out are: Senator Michael Watson of Pascagoula: AG; Senator Chris McDaniel of Ellisville: Governor; Sec. of State Delbert Hoseman: Lt. Gov; Mitch Tyner: PSC Central District; former Sen. Lee Yancey: PSC Central District;
The lessons of Democrats’ bitter losses in November of 2011 are never far away. Republican legislative leaders recognize that they must provide their members with some things they can run on next year like teacher pay raises and putting more police on the street.
As 2014 comes to a close and all eyes turn to the 2015 Mississippi elections, the statewide Democrat believed to be the party’s best shot at a statewide office has opted to instead run for re-election to the Pubic Service Commission. Northern District PSC Commissioner Brandon Presley has long been considered a rising star since his ascension to the PSC in 2007.
On his facebook page this evening, Presley made the following statement ” After much thought and many prayers, I have filed papers today to continue to serve as your Public Service Commissioner. While I’ve received encouragement from people throughout the state, of all political persuasions, to seek higher office, I feel in my heart that my work on the PSC is not done. As we enter election year, I humbly ask for your vote and support. I’ll continue to stand up and fight for the people of Mississippi!”
With Presley staying put, that leaves Democrats with very few names out there that can mount the kind of campaign needed to be successful. We shall wait and see as the 2015 campaign kicks off in earnest!
While qualifying for the 2015 elections are just around the corner, the retirements have already begin to trickle in creating a rare opening for up and coming politicos. The PULSE will continue to update this list as the retirements become speculative and official.
Confirmed Retirement List
Rep. Bobby Howell- Republican- House District 46
Rep. Joe Warren- Democrat- House District 90
Not Confirmed Retirement List
Rep. Rita Martinson- Republican- House District 53
Twas’ a month before qualifying, all across the Magnolia State, Candidates have been fretting, whether to jump into the race. Tate Reeves was flip-flopping and drinking the TEA while Hosemann was yet again plotting, this time to be the LG.
Thad held on and his days appear sunny, thanks to Scooby and Bishop and Barbour’s “walk around money”. But don’t count out McDaniel whose knives seem to be sharper for he may just go after Bryant or Wicker or even Gregg Harper.
State Democrats are still figuring out how to get out of their hole but fret not fellow Dems cause’ all roads still lead to Rickey Cole. The party of Winter and Ronnie and Ray are hoping Brandon Presley will soon show them the way.
Be not dismayed for there is still plenty of lower chamber action thanks to Jeramey and Snowden and yes, Lataisha Jackson. House Republicans are bolstered by an air tight majority and yet are still poised to pick off a few of the remaining House RWD’s.
State Democrats are active and out convincing too, Project 1776 is still working as it goes into year number two. House Dems have set their sights back on the speaker’s gavel; They’ll have rough terrain to defend if they can manage not to unravel.
Twas’ a month before qualifying and no pols seem to be slumbered though one thing is certain, Kenny Wayne’s day’s as chair of the Black Caucus are numbered. If you think this session is going to be a bore all’s you’d have to do is look at the pandering around common core.
Now Blackmon and Bryan and Busby and Bain. On Watson and Doty and don’t forget Fillengane. To Hood and Pickering and Chaney with glee. To Sojourner and Aldridge and the lump of coal under your tree. So, Bob Evans and Cecil and Sen. Hill you can’t hide and let’s not forget Randall and Jason and Nickey “party-switchin’ to glide. With the session and election season soon to be in full bloom, the capitol is sure to be the place to see the biggest elephants in the room. Don’t forget the donkey’s for they will be in the mix; and at the receptions and at the podium and on the floor shaking their fists.
Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi was elected Thursday as the next chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The battle to lead the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm was a close contest between Wicker and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who began lobbying their colleagues several weeks ago.
“I am thankful for the confidence and the support of my colleagues,” Wicker said. “I intend to roll up my sleeves immediately to ensure that we have the resources available to preserve our Republican majority. This Senate Republican leadership team is ready to go to bat for the American people, and I am proud to be a part of it.”
“There’s nothing new they’d learn about me. They know me,” Cochran said of voters. “He wants me to help draw a crowd. I’m not going to do it.”
Cochran was responding to reporters’ questions after the event Thursday and was asked why he won’t debate his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers before the Nov. 4 general election.