Assistant News Editor
The future of the Democratic Party in Mississippi looks bleak after Republicans gained seven seats in the state House of Representatives after the election on Nov. 3.
Some longtime Democrats like Rep. Bo Eaton of Taylorsville and Rep. Sherra Lane of Waynesboro saw defeat to Republican challengers.
One of the biggest losses to the Democrat Party was when House Minority Leader and Democrat Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto, who has served in the state Legislature since 1984, lost with 45 percent of the overall vote to GOP challenger Vince Mangold.
Moak had been targeted by the Republicans, according to Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole.
“They spent a lot of money and worked very hard with a very negative campaign to beat [Moak],” Cole told The Clarion-Ledger. “That was an upset. I think this was pretty much a status quo election.”
It was a perfect storm for Democrats on Nov. 3. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant did not have serious challenger with Democrat Robert Gray, a truck driver with zero political experience.
Gray was elected by a wide margin in the August primaries beating Madison attorney Vicki Slater who was seen as the party favorite. No one knew who Gray was, and he had spent little money on the campaign heading into the primaries.
A challenger like Gray in the Governor’s race allowed Republicans to focus more resources on races in the state Legislature among others, but the Republicans failed to claim the highest ranking Democrat in office, Attorney General Jim Hood.
Hood has been revered as the “Last Democrat in Dixie” and ran against former U.S. Assistant Attorney and Republican Mike Hurst this year. The three-term incumbent Hood won with 55 percent of the vote.
Despite the loss, Republicans are trying to squash out the Democrats in every way possible including having Democrats change parties.
Rep. Jody Stevenson of Ripley was elected Democrat, but turned red after Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said the Republican Party was searching for a Democrat to switch giving the party a supermajority in the House chamber.
Republicans have also gerrymandered some long-time Democrats out of their districts. After the House lines were redistricted, Bennett Malone of Carthage, a Democrat who had served since 1980, saw his district consolidate with Republican Jason White’s.
Malone retired earlier this year due to health concerns and could not run for office, but he was another trophy the Republicans could claim.
Southern Democrats lost respect for the national party due to civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Republicans were able to capitalize on this in the 1970s and 1980s planting a seed that is finally blooming after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.
The trend has continued and is now uprooting local elections with more and more chancery clerks, sheriffs and superintendents of education running on the Republican ticket.
In the near future, Mississippi’s Democratic Party will be the party of African Americans and liberals while the state’s Republican Party will be the party of whites and conservatives.
This polarization will be a detriment to Mississippi. There will not be any accountability for elected officials when this solidifies.
Mississippi has operated under a one-party system in the past and the effect was abysmal (i.e. segregation, corruption, poor education standards, etc.).
Balance between both parties in the Legislature is what Mississippi needs, but with the tactics the Republicans have pulled recently, it will be years before that balance can be reached again.