By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Republicans will need to win several Northeast Mississippi seats this year to capture a majority in the state House for the first time since the 19th century.
“I think we have a solid field of candidates,” said Rep. Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, a strong candidate for speaker should the Republicans gain the House. Gunn said several currently Democratic seats in Northeast Mississippi could go Republican.
Intense battles are expected across the state, including in Northeast Mississippi, for both House and Senate seats. Democrats currently hold a 68-54 majority in the House. Republicans hold a 27-24 margin in the Senate with one seat vacant because of the death earlier this year of Democrat Jack Gordon of Okolona.
The battle to control both chambers will begin with party primary elections Aug. 2. While the outcome will not be decided until the November general election, party leaders will be walking a fine line, in some cases, hoping the candidate they believe will be the strongest for the general election wins the primary.
But if that candidate is upset in the primary, they will have to quickly pivot and support the winner from their primary for the general election.
Six House seats in Northeast Mississippi have no incumbent seeking re-election. Those six (five Democratic seats and one Republican) are expected to be hotly contested, and they’re high-profile seats. One of the open seats – District 3 – has been held since 1980 by outgoing Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, and Harvey Moss, D-Corinth, is stepping down from the District 2 seat he has held since 1984.
“We feel good about races across the state, but in Northeast Mississippi we feel very good,” said Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, viewed as perhaps the leading Democratic candidate for speaker. “We just have good candidates running in those seats.”