Who Will Be Mississippi's Next Speaker?

By: Jon Kalahar
By: Jon Kalahar

The Mississippi House Republican Conference decided Thursday that it will vote en mass against current house speaker, Billy McCoy.

A representative since 1980, McCoy has served as speaker the last four years.

"There's been a lot of abuse of power, disregard for the rules," said Rep. Phillip Gunn of District 56. "There's been a complete elimination of any sort of conservative or really a repression of conservative ideals."

Gunn says of the 33 house committees, only eight are chaired by Republicans.

"Speaker McCoy is an honest, fair leader in the House. Our government is best when we realize that it was built on a system of checks and balances," said Wayne Dowdy, chairman of the state Democratic Party. "Billy McCoy has been a good check and balance on the executive branch."

Gunn says that McCoy is an obstacle to progress in the legislature and that the opposition from the Republicans has nothing to do with party politics.

In fact, the only other candidate for speaker at this time, is Rep. Jeff Smith of Columbus, also a Democrat. Gunn says it comes down to what the majority of Mississippians want.

"All conservatives in the House cannot continue to support his style of leadership, his political agenda, and it is not good for the citizens of Mississippi," Gunn said.

But Dowdy said he thinks in the end, it is about politics for House Republicans.

"They see the way this election is going; they know they will not make gains in the House, and I'm very comforted by that," Dowdy said.

But only time will tell who's comfortable once the 2008 session starts.

Gunn said he believes there will be enough Democrats who vote against McCoy to remove him from his position.

Dowdy said the vote will be mostly down party lines and McCoy will be re-elected.


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