By Bobby Harrison
JACKSON – It is almost a foregone conclusion that a Republican – current Treasurer Tate Reeves – will preside over the Senate as lieutenant governor.
The Democrats did not field a candidate for the powerful office of lieutenant governor, leaving only Reform Party candidate Tracella Lou O’Hara Hill to challenge Reeves in the Nov. 8 general election.
Still, Democrats have a chance to increase their influence in the Mississippi Senate. Republicans currently have a 27-24 majority with a vacancy caused by the death of Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, in Senate District 8.
If the Democrats could wrestle a majority on Nov. 8, that would put them in a much stronger bargaining position.
Most, though, think events for Democrats would have to go almost perfectly for them to be in that position. The consensus odds favor Republicans holding a slight majority.
“I think it will be close to even like it is now,” said Sen. Gray Tollison, D-Oxford, who is unopposed. “The election will probably swing one or two districts.”
Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, essentially agreed.
“From what I understand, it should be pretty close,” said Brown, who also faces no opposition. “I think we have the possibility of picking up one, two or three, but it will be about the same.”
After the 2007 session, Democrats held a 28-24 advantage, but three of their ranks switched to the Republican Party during the term.
Technically, if the Democrats gained a majority, they could vote to strip the power of the lieutenant governor to appoint committee chairmen and assign legislation – two of his most important powers.
But most observers believe, while the odds are against the Democrats gaining a majority, if they did, it would be such a slim majority they would not have the votes to change rules that have been in place for decades.
Realistically, most observers cite possibly four Republican districts that could change hands and possibly six Democratic seats that might be in play.