Political leaders are keeping a close eye on the Mississippi House District 82 runoff. Wilbert Jones and Bill Marcy are on the June 30 ballot, seeking the seat held by the late Rep. Charles Young.
Both Republicans and Democrats agree that one reason the race is so important is because the person who is chosen could very well determine which party controls the House of Representatives.
"And that's why any one seat is very important," said state Rep. Greg Snowden, a Republican. "Speaker McCoy was elected by one vote on the third ballot when he was reelected speaker. The speaker of the House appoints all committee chairmen. The issue is, are we going to have a voice for the people of east Mississippi? We have elected conservative representatives who don't have a voice because we have the speaker we have and this is an opportunity to make a difference."
When it comes to having a voice in state government, that's the very reason that House majority leader, Rep. Tyrone Ellis, a Democrat, says it's important to have a Democrat win.
"When you look at the demographics of District 82, you have out of the entire area of District 82, 83, 84 and so on, you have primarily Republican representatives for representation," said Ellis, who represents House District 38. "If you take that into consideration, and pretty much that Mr. Young was pretty much the lone Democrat for this long standing period of time, representing this area, now if you lose that seat and there is not a Democratic representative, you have an inequity. It's unbalanced."
Another reason both major parties are paying close attention to the race is because of an issue that is expected to come before lawmakers within the next two years, redistricting.
The last time House seats were redrawn almost 10 years ago, Snowden says his District 83 was redistricted in an odd shape, starting in north Lauderdale County, then going south in a thin line and ending back up on the other side of the county. It was split, like many others. Snowden says because of this type action, many people don't know who their representative is.
"I've always been for fair redistricting," said Snowden. "One that eliminates split precincts to the extent that you can and have people to have a representative choice. We don't have that in the House of Representatives now."
"If you go back and look at it, blood, sweat, and tears drew these district lines," said Ellis. "And to allow it to just go down and be taken away when all of the people who were not represented, who had been disenfranchised all those years, to just take it and strip it away from them, it's just unthinkable."
Although candidates in this special election are not required to declare party affiliation, members of the Mississippi Republican Party are backing candidate Bill Marcy, while Democratic members of the House have endorsed Wilbert Jones.
The winner of the runoff will fill the remainder of Young's term, through the end of 2011.