By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – It is possible that outgoing Farm Bureau President David Waide of West Point could run as an independent for governor in 2011 against the Republican and Democratic nominees.
If that occurs, there is a good chance that no candidate will capture a majority of the popular vote and win the most votes in a majority of the state’s 122 House seats. To win statewide office, the Mississippi Constitution requires a candidate to do both.
And if both those thresholds are not met, then it is up to the Mississippi House to select the winning candidate “from the two persons who shall have received the highest number of popular votes.”
It happened in 1999 when Ronnie Musgrove won the popular vote, but came just short of obtaining a majority of the vote, throwing the election into the House.
Imagine, the 2011 election being thrown into the House in the midst of what is expected to be a closely contested speaker’s race? When the House selected Musgrove in 2000, there was no speaker’s race. Tim Ford was elected to his fourth term as speaker with no opposition.
But there were efforts in 2000 of trying to forge some type of alliance where Parker’s supporters would back an African American for speaker in exchange for the black House members voting for Parker. That scenario never got off the ground and Musgrove won all the votes of the Black Caucus members who rejected the proposal.
If the governor’s election were thrown into the House, there could be all sorts of efforts at deal-making by various political factions. That is how legislative politics work. It is dirty and at times breath-taking to see up close.
That old adage of not wanting to see up close sausage being made and laws being made is true.
It is worth noting that the provision throwing the election into the House was placed into the Constitution in the 1890s to ensure that no black candidate – blacks were then a majority in Mississippi – won statewide office. Now only Mississippi and Vermont have such provisions.
A person can be elected president without obtaining a majority vote. Thad Cochran was first elected to the U.S. Senate without a majority. But to be elected governor of Mississippi or even treasurer in Mississippi, a candidate must garner a majority of the popular vote and, for good measure, also must win the most votes in at least 61 state House districts.
Because of that provision, I could see a scenario where Waide, running as an independent, could be elected governor.
It is possible the Republican nominee would be the odd man out if the language that the House would choose “from the two persons who shall have received the highest number of popular votes” is taken literally.
The Democratic nominee has a built-in base nearing 40 percent of the electorate who would not leave the party to vote for Waide.
On the other hand, Waide might be able to siphon off a larger number of people who would normally vote Republican. After all, Farm Bureand boasts more than 200,000 member families, representing more than 600,000 voters. All of those would not vote for Waide. If they did, he would win without the election going to the House.
But if Waide could garner a sizable number of those voters, it is possible the Republican could be the odd-man or woman out when the House met on the Tuesday after the first Monday of January 2012 to elect first a speaker and then a governor.
What a day that would be.
Contact Bobby Harrison, the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (601) 353-3119.