By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Tate Reeves, the presumptive lieutenant governor-elect, has the luxury of helping fellow Republicans get elected to the state Senate where he likely will preside for the next four years.
While many other candidates for statewide office are traveling the state trying to win votes for the Nov. 8 general election, Reeves can begin to plan for assuming the lieutenant governorship.
Reeves, who is finishing his second term as state treasurer, defeated Senate President Pro Tem Billy Hewes of Gulfport in the August Republican primary. The Democrats failed to field a candidate, leaving Reform Party candidate Tracella Lou O’Hara Hill of Terry as Reeves’ only general election opposition.
“Since the August primary, we’ve been working to help other Republican candidates and the state party,” Reeves said recently in response to an inquiry from the Daily Journal. “We’ve been to events all over the state on behalf of candidates and have been working to raise funds that we will donate to candidates and the state party.”
The fact that Reeves does not face a serious November challenge means he can begin work early to put together his leadership team in the state Senate and to decide how to divvy out committee assignments. Traditionally, the Senate has given the lieutenant governor the authority to make committee assignments. It might be the most important duty the lieutenant governor has.
“I have been meeting with senators, but we’re not considering committee assignments and leadership issues until after the Nov. 8th election,” Reeves said.
Technically, especially if the Democrats gain control of the Senate, they could change the rules and take away the authority to make committee assignments from Reeves. Republicans currently hold a 27-24 advantage in the Senate – with one vacancy because of the death of Jack Gordon, D-Okolona.
Most political observers believe that, even if Democrats could garner a majority on Nov. 8, it would not be a large enough margin to have the votes to succeed in changing the rules of the Senate in such a dramatic way for the first time in memory.
While Reeves has been working to elect Republicans, the Rankin County native said during the campaign he would name some Democratic senators to key committee posts.
He said recently that is still true.
“I’ve said all along that if I’m elected lieutenant governor, the committee chairs in the Senate will come from both political parties,” Reeves said.
Besides naming committee chairs, the senators normally select the member who has the backing of the lieutenant governor to serve as pro tem. Senators rumored to be vying for the post are Terry Brown, R-Columbus, Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian, and Tommy Gollott, R-Biloxi.
The pro-tem presides in the absence of the lieutenant governor and in recent years has chaired the Rules Committee and has overseen the daily management of the chamber.
Gollott served as pro tem when Ronnie Musgorve was lieutenant governor in the late 1990s.
Before the primary, Hewes took the unprecedented step of naming who many of his key appointees would be if he was elected lieutenant governor. He said at the time he was supporting Carmichael for pro tem, leading many to speculate that Carmichael was supporting Hewes. But various sources have said that was not the case.