STARKVILLE — Nationally, the demographics of America’s state legislators are far different than Mississippi’s numbers indicate, according to data available from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Looking at all 7,383 state legislators in the U.S., 82.53% are white, 9.12% are African American, 4.52% are Hispanic, .99% are Asian, .85% are other, .41% are Native American, .31% are Hawaiian and .2% are multiracial.
U.S. legislators are 71.2% male and 28.8% female in a nation that is 50.8% female and 48.2% male.
From a partisan standpoint across the nation, 52% of legislators are Republican, 47% are Democrat and the remaining 1% are independent, other or undecided. Republicans control 61% of state legislatures nationally, while Democrats control 37%, one state legislature is divided and Nebraska’s unicameral and bipartisan legislature is not included in the count.
But in Mississippi, our state’s 174 legislators at the beginning of this year were 68.97% white, 28.74% African American and .57% each Hispanic, Native American and other. That’s in a state with a population — according to the U.S. census — that is 59.1% white, 37.8% African American, 3.4% Hispanic and .6% Native American.
Mississippi lawmakers are 85.1% male and 14.9% female in a state that is 51.5% female and 48.5% male.
From a partisan standpoint, Republicans (at the beginning of the 2019 session) controlled the Mississippi Legislature by a 72-48 margin with two vacancies in the House of Representatives and with a 33-19 margin in the Senate.
The 2019 general election in terms of the Legislature are unlikely to significantly redistribute the partisan mathematics as Republicans appear likely to pick up at least a couple of net Senate seats. The House appears headed for no real changes to the present Republican majority.
What will be different is the legislative leadership. Although there is no indication that House Speaker Philip Gunn, the Republican who succeeded Democrat Billy McCoy in the leadership post in 2011, doesn’t have the support to be returned as speaker that’s about the only stability in the present legislative leadership.
House Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden, the Meridian Republican, was defeated in his re-election bid. Over in the Senate, two-term GOP Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is running for governor while Senate President Pro Tempore Terry C. Burton stepped down from the post early in 2019 and did not seek re-election. Veteran Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, was elected to succeed Burton — but that came after he had announced his intention not to seek Senate re-election.
There will be a new lieutenant governor and a new Senate president pro tempore leading that chamber in January in addition to a successor to Snowden in the House pro tem post.
There has been significant turnover in both houses of the Mississippi Legislature, which will guarantee new faces in the committee leadership positions as well.
The marquee political matchup in the 2019 Mississippi general election is the governor’s race between Reeves and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. But from a governing standpoint, the winner of the race for lieutenant governor between Republican Delbert Hosemann and Democrat Jay Hughes is equally impactful.
• Sid Salter is director of the Office of University Relations at Mississippi State University. Contact him at email@example.com.