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Will Billy McCoy’s Retirement Help Republicans Win the Mississippi House?

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 26 May 2011 11:34am | comments
Governor Haley Barbour at a recent event.

Republicans in Mississippi are eyeing the House Speaker's Seat in the state legislature now that long-time democrat Billy McCoy has decided not to run for re-election. McCoy's decision creates an open race for one of the most influential positions in state government. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on how McCoy's retirement might change the political landscape of the state.

Spending three decades in the house and serving two terms as house speaker, House Speaker Billy McCoy became an important figure in state politics.

Within hours of McCoy's Wednesday announcement, the state Republican Party announced a candidate to run in McCoy's northeast Mississippi district.

Governor Haley Barbour commends McCoy's decades of service but also likes his party's chances to take control of the House.

"It is just one seat, but I think Republicans have a reasonable chance of winning a majority in the House. I think the House will be more conservative next year whether it is a Republican majority or not," Barbour said.

Democratic senator Hillman Fraiser of Jackson was elected to the legislature in the same year as McCoy and sat next to him when they were both state representatives.

Fraiser does not see McCoy's retirement as a political problem for Democrats in the state.

"This is not a time of trouble for the Democrats. In politics, the pendulum swings back and forth all time. But we have a good two party system in this state, and I am very sad to see Billy McCoy leave, but someone will step to the plate and help us go forward in this state," Fraiser said.

McCoy leaves big shoes to fill....Marty Wiseman, the director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, credits McCoy with holding the state Democratic Party together in the face of wide Republican gains.

"And Billy McCoy was kind of a bastion of democratic ideology, and I believe it remains to be seen that anybody with half the resolve of Billy McCoy is going to be available to shore up the Democratic Party in Mississippi," Wiseman said.

Wiseman cautions that McCoy's absence does not automatically mean Republicans will win the House in the next election or elect a Republican speaker...but he says it certainly improves their chances down the road.

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Governor Haley Barbour at a recent event.


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