Regional House member switches from Dem to GOP

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – A Northeast Mississippi state House member has joined the growing list of elected officials switching to the Republican Party.
Rep. Margaret Ellis Rogers of New Albany joined Rep. Russ Nowell of Louisville in a news conference Thursday at the state Republican Party headquarters where they announced they are leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP.
Rogers, who is in her second term in the House, said her voting philosophy will not change.
“I have consistently voted my conscience and voted for the people of my district,” she said. “That will not change. My beliefs, and I think, the beliefs of the people of my district tend to be conservative.”
With the switch of Nowell and Rogers, the House has 68 Democrats and 53 Republicans with one vacancy. But House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said the switch will not change the dynamics of the House.
Both Nowell and Rogers, along with other House members who have switched to the Republican Party in the past year, all voted for Rep. Jeff Smith, D-Columbus, instead of McCoy earlier this term for speaker. Smith had the backing of all of the Republicans when he lost to McCoy on a 62-60 vote.
Rogers already has qualified to run for re-election as a Republican.
McCoy said his support in the House is stronger now than when he was elected.
Of the party-switchers, he said, “That is a decision they made on their own. I would not criticize nor comment. That is the American way.”
Rep. Tyrone Ellis of Starkville, the House majority leader, also said he would not criticize their decisions, but said he did take exception to Republican claims that there are no conservatives in the state Democratic Party.
Since the November election, when Republicans picked up two U.S. House seats previously held by Democrats, numerous elected officials have switched to the Republican Party.

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@journalinc.com.