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GOP gains control of Mississippi House

 

Jeff Amy, The Associated Press

 

JACKSON -- Republicans will control the Mississippi House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction. 

 

Though some counties were still counting absentee and affidavit ballots Monday, Republicans will hold at least 63 of the 122 seats when the Legislature convenes Jan. 3. 

 

Totals confirmed Monday show Republican Gene Alday defeated incumbent Democrat John Mayo in House District 25, putting the GOP over the top for control of the House. Also Monday, Perry County officials finished counting votes in House District 105, where Republican Dennis DeBar Jr. beat Democrat Dale Kimble and independent Latricia Cornelson in a seat formerly held by a Democrat. 

 

The win puts the GOP in almost complete control of state government, including both houses of the Legislature. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant won the governor's office, and Republicans won all but one other statewide office. Attorney General Jim Hood, who won re-election last week, is the last remaining Democrat in a statewide post. 

 

"It'll be easier for the next governor to do hard things," outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour said Monday at the National Governor's Association meeting in Nashville, Tenn. 

 

The takeover will likely lead to a Republican speaker and a number of Republican committee chairs. Outgoing House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, didn't appoint any Republicans to lead committees in 2008. 

 

"We will get to choose the chairmen, which should set the philosophical agenda for what we vote on on the House floor," said Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune. He said GOP control could lead to charter schools, a more streamlined budget and fewer regulations on businesses.  

 

"I certainly would hope we would not be voting on tax increases," Formby said. 

 

Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, who had hoped to lead the chamber if Democrats had retained control, agreed that the takeover is a significant shift. 

 

"I think you're going to see a very different set of priorities from Republicans," Brown said. He said he expected Republicans would be less interested in spending money on public education, Medicaid and public health. 

 

Others, though, questioned how much things would really change. 

 

"Mississippi is at its core a very conservative state, and the leadership -- both Republican and Democrat -- has tended to reflect that," said Rep. Ed Blackmon, D-Canton. 

 

Both Brown and Formby noted that even with 64 votes, Republicans would have a narrow majority in the House, which could call for GOP leaders to try to reach out to Democrats. "We're going to have to figure out how to govern," Formby said. 

 

For Democrats' part, they're going to have to figure out how to be an effective minority, Brown said. 

 

"We have no intent to try to just gum up the process," he said. "That's not helpful to anybody."  

 

Counting was still going on Monday in the Bolivar County part of House District 28, where GOP candidate Tommy Taylor narrowly leads Democrat David Dallas. Republican officials expect to win that seat as well, giving the party 64 votes. 

 

Assuming that lead holds, Republicans will post a net gain of nine seats in the general election and one through a party switch. Rep. Donnie Bell of Fulton jumped to the GOP Friday. 

 

Three Republican incumbents lost in the Nov. 8 election, cutting into the potential majority.

 

 

 

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