BOBBY HARRISON: Divided Legislature would work to Reeves' advantage

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Republican Tate Reeves, the presumptive lieutenant governor-elect, might be in a more powerful position if the Democrats retain control of the state House this November.
The Democrats, reeling in the state, could not even muster up a candidate to run for lieutenant governor – the presiding officer of the Senate. But most political observers give the Democrats a better than even chance of retaining control of the House, and thus the speakership.
An unnamed source recently made the argument that a House Democratic majority could actually benefit Reeves – though I doubt Reeves, a partisan Republican to his core, has considered that himself.
Treasurer Reeves, who defeated Senate President Pro Tem Billy Hewes of Gulfport in the August Republican primary for lieutenant governor, faces Reform Party opposition from Tracella Lou O’Hara Hill in November.
It would literally be the biggest upset in all of Mississippi political history for Reeves to lose the election. Barring that upset, Reeves will be the next lieutenant governor, replacing Republican Phil Bryant, who is the favorite to win the gubernatorial election, though some are now saying Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, the Democratic nominee, will be a tougher opponent than originally thought.
But for sake of argument, let’s assume that Reeves wins the lieutenant governor’s post – a safe assumption – and that Bryant replaces the term-limited Haley Barbour as governor.
Though both will deny it with every fiber of their being, it is no secret that Reeves and Bryant are not overly fond of each other. Both are successful politicians and both want to rule the proverbial political roost.
If the Republicans gain a majority in the House and elect a speaker, that would diminish Reeves’ power. Reeves would be at-best one of three equal voices – along with the House speaker and the governor. Bryant could bypass Reeves and go to a Republican majority in the House to advance his causes.
But if the Democrats retain control of the House, then Reeves becomes much more important to the governor.
In a perverse kind of way, Reeves has more opportunity to influence policy if there is friction – a House Democratic majority. Because at that point, the governor needs him to move his agenda and vice versa.
Of course, politics can sometimes make strange bedfellows. On occasion, there could be issues where a House Democratic majority and Reeves are in concert even when Bryant and the House Democratic leadership are in agreement. But more often than not, it would be Reeves and Bryant, though not best buddies, agreeing on philosophical issues.
Still, that does not mean Bryant – or any governor – will have the influence in the Senate that Barbour had.
Look for Reeves to flex his muscles. I am just saying he might be more of a powerbroker if there is someone on the other side – House Democrats – capable of having a major impact on the legislative process.
Does that mean Reeves wants the Democrats to win the House? No, he is a true, loyal Republican.
But I am just saying…
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief. Contact him at bobby.harrison@journalinc.com or (601) 353-3119.