Democrat Dortch leaves Mississippi House to lead state ACLU


Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press



JACKSON -- A Democratic member of the Mississippi House has stepped down and will become the new state director of the American Civil Liberties Union.


Jarvis Dortch of Raymond has served since January 2016 in House District 66, which is in Hinds County. He submitted a resignation letter Thursday, saying that Wednesday was his last day in office.


"It has never been and will never be lost on me, as an African American in Mississippi, the historical weight that comes with serving in this chamber," wrote Dortch, a 39-year-old attorney. "It is an awesome responsibility and I must always remember that when my grandparents were my age they were not allowed to enter the House chamber, much less serve in it."



Dortch is leaving days after legislators' landmark vote to retire the 126-year-old Mississippi flag, the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem.


Legislators finished most of their work for the 2020 session late Wednesday, although they will return at some point to set a budget for one agency.


Republican Gov. Tate Reeves will set special elections to fill vacant legislative seats. The winners will serve the rest of the term that ends in January 2024.


Republican Rep. Gary Chism of Columbus resigned to take care of his wife as she faces health concerns. His last day was Tuesday. Chism served since 2000 in a district that includes parts of Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties.


Republican Sen. Gary Jackson of French Camp resigned as of Tuesday because of his own health concerns. He served since 2004 in a district in Choctaw, Montgomery, Oktibbeha and Webster counties.


Reeves has already set a Nov. 3 election to fill a House seat in parts of Forrest and Lamar counties. First-year Republican Rep. Billy Andrews of Purvis resigned because he could not serve in the House while also collecting the state pension he earned as a judge.


Robin Robinson of Laurel recently won a special election in Jasper and Jones counties to succeed first-year Rep. Ramona Blackledge, who resigned Jan. 31 because of the same pension issue as Andrews. Blackledge is a former tax collector. Robinson had not been sworn in by Thursday.


Candidates in Mississippi special elections run without party labels on the ballot, although they frequently tell voters whether they'll serve as a Democrat, a Republican or an independent.





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