Speaker Race Uncertain

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The speaker of the Mississippi House is traditionally a very powerful position. The speaker is chosen by the members of the House and he or she then chooses the House leadership.

This is Billy McCoy's first term as speaker. He was chosen after the 2003 elections.

Rep. Greg Snowden of Meridian says McCoy has chosen a leadership that just isn't working. He says McCoy has created a governing body that does not reflect the political makeup of the House, and one which is causing the House to be fractured instead of united.

"You know, it's not personal, it's political," Snowden said. "And I do not think the House can move forward like we should unless and until we have new leadership."

But that opinion is not shared by Rep. Charles Young of Meridian. Young says McCoy has stepped in the gap for economic development in east Mississippi. And Young says if the House is fractured, then how were members able to accomplish so much this session?

"In the last session we turned out early and had some time to spare, and so, you can't cause confusion and things of that nature if you've got time to spare in a legislative body," Young said.

McCoy has not said whether or not he will run for office again. Speculators say McCoy will pull out of the speaker's race if he can't pull a definite majority.

The apparent front runner for the position is Rep. Jeff Smith, a Democrat from Columbus. Snowden says he's the right man for the job.

"If I had to bet today, I would be willing to bet that Jeff Smith will be the next speaker," Snowden said.

Snowden says Smith would be a unifier in the House. Young says it's too early to say.

There is still a little time for legislators to decide who will be in leadership. Elections are this coming November. The House speaker will be chosen by a vote in January.