/Democrats chart a path to achieve modest goals in upcoming legislative elections

Democrats chart a path to achieve modest goals in upcoming legislative elections

Only Democrats with the most rose-powered glasses could hope to win a majority in either the 122-member House of the Senate or the 52 member Senate. They want to win enough seats in both the House and Senate to remove Republicans from their so-called supermajority (or three-fifths majority) in each chamber. A three-fifth majority allows legislators to pass a tax bill, cut or increase. It does not require any Democratic votes. House Democratic Leader David Baria of Bay St. Louis said, “We aren’t under any illusions we can take majorities at either chamber this electoral cycle.” Baria stated that Democrats believe that overcoming legislative super majorities can be achieved. The House super majority could also be seen as a legacy from the outgoing governor. Phil Bryant. Then-Lt. Gov. Bryant was the Senate’s presidency in 2011. This unprecedented move proved to be a huge win for his Republican Party. 2011 saw the redrawing of legislative districts by both Senate and House members to ensure equal representation. This was based on 2010 Census data. Each chamber would have to pass its redistricting plans and the other chamber would then rubber stamp it. Bryant, however, resisted the House plan and ended the precedent. Bryant wanted to stop the House plan. Republicans believe it was gerrymandered in order to give Democrats more House seats. The issue was brought to the attention of federal courts by the Legislature, which became hostile to Bryant’s decision not to block the Democrats House plan. The courts in the past had required that legislators contest the next election in new districts drawn from the most recent Census data. However, in this case, the courts ruled that legislators could redraw districts after the 2011 election but not before the 2015 elections. The 2011 elections saw Republicans win a small majority in both chambers. They redrew districts in 2012 to make it more favorable to Republicans. This resulted in super majorities. Bryant’s House Democrats’ proposal would have allowed the Republicans to win majorities in the 2011 election. There are more Republicans in the state than Democrats, and even the most creative redistricting can’t change that fact. However, the Republicans would have had much more difficulty achieving the three-fifths supermajority under the original House Democratic majority plan. The Democrats are hoping to eliminate that super majority this election cycle. Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), House Speaker, doesn’t believe that the Democrats will succeed. Gunn stated that he fully expected to keep the Republican majority, and most likely increase his numbers. Republicans hold a 75-46 edge in the House with just one vacancy, while Republicans have a 31-18 advantage with three vacancies in the Senate. Three-fifths of the Senate’s 52 members is 32, and the House has 74 members. Both parties have seats that they want to win in the next election. Both see ways to achieve their goals, though the Democrats may be able to accomplish modest goals. Based on the number and quality of the contested elections, it seems more feasible for Democrats to reach those modest goals in Congress than in the Senate. Each side has a good idea of the competitive districts based on past results in legislative races and statewide races. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to predict the outcome of an election based only on past results. In 2007, for example, incumbent Speaker Billy McCoy (D-Rienzi) and challenger Jeff Smith (I-Columbus) were trying to elect enough members in order to secure their selections as speakers for the next four years. Republicans knew they couldn’t win a majority at the time and had supported Smith to gain the support of conservative Democrats. McCoy and Smith had House candidates that they supported. Jackson County District 111 was not a focus of attention. It was a safe Republican seat, and therefore a vote for Smith’s speakership. Surprisingly, Brandon Jones, a young Democratic lawyer from Pascagoula won the seat by 11 voters in 2007. Jones remained committed to McCoy despite being pressured by many to vote for Smith. McCoy and Democrats were pleased with Jones’ unexpected victory. McCoy won by a margin of 62-60.