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Republicans Rally Behind A Candidate For Speaker of the Mississippi House

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 14 Nov 2011 08:31pm | comments

Mississippi House Republicans are lining up behind a candidate to be the next Speaker of the House. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that decision clears the way for the first Republican speaker of the house in 135 years.

"On behalf of the Mississippi House Republican Conference, I introduce the Speaker nominee, Phillip Gunn," Representative Mark Baker of Brandon introduces the Republican candidate for Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn.

Gunn, a three term representative from Clinton, gathered support of his fellow republicans in a series of closed-door votes yesterday in Brandon.

Since Republicans have won a majority in the House, the decision sets up Gunn to be the next Speaker when the legislative session starts next year.

Republicans have frequently complained about being left out of leadership roles by Democrats, but Gunn says as Speaker he would consider all representatives when it comes time to hand out committee chairmanships.

"My intention would be to sit down and evaluate every chairmanship based upon abilities, experience, knowledge, leadership capabilities and hand them out according to that. We have had enough of back room deals. People in Mississippi are tired of that kind of politics. This is a new era, this is a new political age.

Democratic Representative Cecile Brown of Jackson would have run for the Speakership, had democrats retained control of the House.

He says it is unlikely that Democrats will off a candidate for Speaker.

"If we don't have a majority, it doesn't make much sense to get out there and fight over the speakership. If we had the majority, I would run. If we don't, I think it is pretty clear that the Republicans will get out there and elect one of their own," Brown said.

The Speaker plays an important role in Mississippi politics, controlling the direction of bills and deciding what gets debated, as well as selecting committee chairs.

University of Mississippi Political Scientist John Winburn says the Republican's thin majority...maybe just a seat or two...could actually improve Gunn's position.

"Oftentimes, when the majorities get real close we tend to see the speaker gain more power as political parties rally around themselves and protect what power they do have," Winburn said.

Republicans now appear to be the main driving force in state politics....last week's election brought them to majorities in both chambers as well as 7 of 8 state wide offices, including governor and lt. governor.

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