Mississippi

By Cammie Bellamy

In the national arena, the Republican or conservative third-party candidate in nearly every election since 1956 has carried the state by a wide margin. In 2008, Republican John McCain won with 56.2 percent of the popular vote to Democrat Barack Obama’s 43 percent.

The most recent Democratic presidential candidate to win the state was Georgia native Jimmy Carter in 1976. Third-party segregationist candidate Harry F. Byrd won the state in 1960, as did American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in 1968.

Mississippi currently has six electoral votes. Projections for the 2012 presidential race point to Mississippi giving Republican Mitt Romney the widest margin of victory of any state.

Still, though predictably Republican, the state has a significant Democratic faction, much of the base of which is the 37.3 percent of the population that is African-American.

In the 2012 election, the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Roger Wicker is up for election. Wicker was appointed to the seat in 2007 by then-Governor Haley Barbour to fill the vacancy left when Trent Lott resigned. Wicker is being challenged by Democrat Albert N. Gore, Jr., as well as a Reform Party and a Constitution Party candidate. FiveThirtyEight, a poll aggregator with The New York Times, projects that Wicker will take 65 percent of the popular vote to Gore’s projected 32 percent.

National perception of current Mississippi politics has been largely defined by former Governor Barbour, in office from 004 to 2012. His administration dealt with both Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010. Barbour’s charismatic leadership and cooperation with the Bush White House in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was credited with bringing large amounts of federal aid to the state, and was contrasted with his hands-off handling of the oil spill, which occurred during Obama’s tenure.

 In the Capitol in Jackson, both chambers of the State Legislature are currently Republican-controlled. Republican legislators gained seats in both chambers during the 2011 mid-term elections. In 2011, Republicans took control of the Mississippi House of Representatives, moving from 55 seats to 64. They currently have a 64 to 58 majority over House Democrats. Though Republicans already controlled the Mississippi State Senate, they widened their majority in 2011, going from 28 to 31 seats. There are currently 21 Senate Democrats. The 2011 elections gave the Mississippi State Legislature its first Republican majority since Reconstruction.

A major issue of the 2012 election has been a proposed voter ID law. Mississippi voters approved a law requiring voters to show ID in a November, 2011 ballot measure by a margin of 62 percent to 37 percent. It has since been challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is currently investigating whether the law is racially discriminatory. Though the law has been suspended for the 2012 election during the DOJ investigation, it remains a flashpoint of Mississippi state politics. At their 2012 State Convention, the Mississippi Democratic Party presented a platform that stressed their opposition to the law, making it the first article of their platform.

 According to a 2011-2012 Gallup survey, Mississippi is the most conservative state in the nation. The survey found that 53.4 percent of Mississippians self-identified as conservative. Mississippi was one of only four states where more than half of residents identified this way. The national average was 40 percent.

Another survey around the same time by Gallup found that Mississippi was also the most religious state in the nation. Fifty-nine percent of Mississippians self-identified as very religious, well above the national average of 40 percent.

In September, the U.S. Census Bureau found that Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation, a position it has held frequently. Mississippi currently has a median income of just $36,919. The state’s overall poverty rate stands at 22.6 percent.

W. Martin Wiseman, the director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, described the state’s political culture in an editorial for The Hill congressional blog as “characterized as a process of the masses voting against their own interests.” He cited Mississippi’s willingness to vote for fiscally conservative politicians in spite of its relative poverty as one such paradox.Wiseman also analyzed the racial politics of Mississippi, which are some of the most complex and polarizing in the nation. Though most state and national Mississippi politicians are white and Republican, Mississippi has more black elected officials than any state in the nation, most of who serve in local offices and are Democrats.

 

Politicians

Governor – Phil Bryant (R), 2012-2015

http://www.governorbryant.com/

 

Lieutenant Governor (President of the State Senate): Tate Reeves (R), 2011-2015

http://www.ltgovreeves.ms.gov/Pages/Home.aspx

http://www.tatereeves.com/

 

Senators

Thad Cochran (R), 1978-2015

http://www.cochran.senate.gov/public/

http://www.thadforsenate.com/

Wicker (R), 2007 (appointed)-2013

http://www.wicker.senate.gov/public/

http://wickerforsenate.com/

 

Representatives

District 1 (north: incl. Columbus, Tupelo)

Alan Nunnelee (R), 2011-2013

http://nunnelee.house.gov/

http://www.nunneleeforcongress.com/

District 2 (west: incl. Jackson)

Bennie G. Thompson (D), 1993-2013

http://benniethompson.house.gov/

http://www.benniethompson.com/

District 3 (central: incl. Meridian, Natchez)

Gregg Harper (R), 2009-2013

http://harper.house.gov/

http://www.greggharper.ms/

District 4 (southeast: incl. Biloxi, Gulfport)

Steven Palazzo (R), 2011-2013

http://palazzo.house.gov/

http://palazzoforcongress.com/

 

State Speaker of the House

Philip Gunn (R), 2004-2012 (representative), 2012-2013 (speaker)

http://www.philipgunn.org/

 

Mississippi State Legislature: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/

 

Press

The Clarion-Ledger: print newspaper, daily circulation, Jackson, owned by the Gannett Company

http://www.clarionledger.com/

WTOK: ABC affiliate television news station, Meridian, owned by Gray Television

http://www.wtok.com/

Mississippi Public Broadcasting: public radio and television, statewide, holds all PBS and NPR licenses in the state

http://mpbonline.org/

Magnolia Report: news headline aggregator for Mississippi politics, online, Jackson

http://www.magnoliareport.com/