Republicans look to solidify House majority

By Aaron Rice
October 24, 2019

All 122 seats in the state House of Representatives will be on the ballot in November, with Republicans looking to expand their current two-thirds majority. 

With Rep. Nick Bain of Corinth switching parties before he qualified for re-election earlier this year, Republicans now hold 75 seats in the House. (It’s technically 74 with a vacancy in a Republican held seat.) The number of Democrats also dipped when Reps. Angela Cockerham of Magnolia and Steve Holland of Plantersville opted to run as independents, forgoing potentially challenging Democratic primaries. 

Here is what we know

Heading to November, Republicans nearly have a majority just in terms of the number of seats Democrats failed to field a candidate. There are 55 seats with no Democratic candidate. There are 42 seats with no Republican opponent. Translation: There are very few competitive seats on the ballot. 

Here are the remaining races with both an R and a D:

3Tracy Arnold (i)Janis Patterson 
7Steve Hopkins (i)Theresa Isom 
10Brady WilliamsonBobby DaileyRepublican held open seat
12Clay DeweeseTiffany KilpatrickDemocrat held open seat
13Steve Massengill (i)Pam Denham 
15Mac Huddleston (i)Pat Montgomery 
17Shane Aguirre (i)Cathy Grace 
22Thomas FutralJon LancasterDemocrat held open seat
25Dan Eubanks (i)Harold Harris 
28Jerry DarnellMatt WilliamsRepublican held open seat
40Ashley Henley (i)Hester McCray 
53Vince Mangold (i)Rita Goss 
56Philip Gunn (i)Vicki Slater 
64Bill Denny (i)Shanda Yates 
68Jon PondZakiya SummersDemocrat held open seat
74Lee YanceyJason McCartyRepublican held open seat
75Vance CoxTom Miles (i) 
78Randy Rushing (i)Joe Bradford 
90Noah Sanford (i)L. R. Easterling 
97Sam Mims (i)Ben Thompson 
102Missy McGee (i)Brandon Rue 
105Dale GoodinMatthew DavesRepublican held open seat
115Randall Patterson (i)Felix Gines 
117Kevin Felsher Inez KelleherRepublican held open seat
122Brent AndersonWendy McDonaldDemocrat held open seat

After winning by two points in 2015, Rep, David Baria (D-Bay St. Louis) opted against a run at a third term in the House this year giving Republicans their pickup best opportunity. District 12, despite being in Oxford, is still a slight Republican district. With Rep. Jay Hughes (D-Oxford) running for higher office, this is another potential opening, though certainly more challenging. 

The only other competitive Democrat seat is District 75, currently held by Rep. Tom Miles (D-Forest). It’s a Republican-leaning district, but Miles has done just fine at the ballot box. He defeated Vance Cox, who he is facing again this year, 63-37 in 2015. 

Democrats are challenging a dozen or so Republican incumbents, yet the territory isn’t that great. Every district held by Republicans is a “Republican” district based on a partisan voting patterns. District 40 may be shifting away from Republicans, but Rep. Ashley Henley (R-Southaven) did win 69 percent of the vote in 2015. District 102 certainly entices Democrats, yet Rep. Missy McGee won nearly 68 percent in a 2017 special election – in a district Democrats targeted and spent money on. 

Regardless of where Democrats look, they will need to win in districts where statewide and national Republicans generally win 60 plus percent of the vote. Can Cathy Grace defeat Rep. Shane Aguirre in Tupelo? Can Shanda Yates topple Rep. Bill Denny in Northeast Jackson? Perhaps, but the numbers aren’t on their side. 

Because right now, if you want to defeat a Republican incumbent, your best chance to do so is in the Republican primary. 

Independent’s Day

We may see two independents elected for the first time in nearly two decades, though both Holland and Cockerham took divergent paths to their current efforts. 

Holland is facing a challenge from Rickey Thompson, a former Lee County Justice Court Judge, who was removed from the court four years ago for various judicial misconduct violations. Thompson, who is black, made this a racial issue, as did his supporters. Holland, who was first elected in 1983, choose to avoid a Democratic primary that is overwhelmingly black. 

Cockerham was one of two Democrats to land a committee chair four years ago and is in line for another powerful spot if she returns. Her willingness to side with Republicans has put her at odds with the Democratic leadership, and she is in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. She escaped a primary four years ago despite her close relationship with the Speaker. She was unable to do so again, so she decided to run as an independent. 

Best case scenario

For Democrats, you need a net 15 seat pickup for the majority. That’s not happening so you really have to be happy with a couple seats and knocking the Republicans out of their “supermajority” status. 

For Republicans, you need 7 seats for 82, which would be a two-thirds majority. That's likely impossible, this year, or ever, just based on the districts, so you want to see your incumbents win and pick up District 122, and then knocking off Miles and picking up District 12 would be a bonus.   


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