Mississippi Lt. Governor Phil Bryant, also a candidate for Governor in this year’s statewide election, had a few choice words regarding the Mississippi redistricting process after the Senate approved their own plan for redistricting and rejected his.
A plan approved by Mississippi House Democrats was halted by Mississippi Senate Republicans. It is a bitter war between plans, incumbents and regulators now.
Bryant stated he was “offended” that Mississippi would be included in the list of Section 5 states and he is against “having the Obama Justice Department telling us how to create our legislative districts in Mississippi.” Sounds as if Bryant is following the political rhetoric and the long tradition of Mississippi Governors who oppose “outside influence.”
Lt. Governor Bryant is probably struggling to withhold his true feelings about creating more electable Black Senate districts in Mississippi.
Through fear of being carved out of their districts, many incumbent Republican senators opposed the original plan. In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for example, where a slim majority of the city’s residents are African American, a minority-majority Senate district was proposed in a map approved by House Democrats. In Bryant’s plan, which was approved by Mississippi Senate Republicans, the committee’s proposed district is deleted. Instead, Senate Republicans would carve up Hattiesburg, as was done during the 2010 Redistricting Plan, to eliminate the possibility of Hattiesburg electing a Black or Democratic Senator.
Bryant went on to mention that Mississippi has the most Black elected officials in the nation, although he failed to mention that it is also home to Black America’s most devastating poverty, health, incarceration, unemployment and infant mortality rates in the nation as well. Why wouldn’t Mississippi have the most Black elected officials? Look at the demographics. Mississippi is approximately 38% African American. Out of 52 Senate seats in Mississippi, only 10 are held by African Americans. Take that another step and add that Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama, all southern states located in America’s Black belt, have high percentages of African American elected officials. It is a case of demographics versus districts. It is simple to see that Black people can be elected.
Democrats are challenged in statehouses like Mississippi when many of their elected members defect to the Republican party seeking to retain southern White support. In Mississippi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, Billy McCoy, takes a different stance, having named African American Democrats as chairs of many of the House Committees.
In the state redistricting battle, he is consistent in striving for equity.
“I don’t know what the lieutenant governor’s trying to prove except that he’s a mighty man,” said House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi. “I’m damn irritated.”
“Evidently, the lieutenant governor wishes for the House and Senate to have to run twice.”
The Clarion Ledger’s Molly Parker reports:
A stalemate or creation of a plan the U.S. Justice Department won’t stamp would likely mean legislative candidates running once under the current maps and again under new maps.
Legislators ran twice after the 1990 census, in 1991 and again in 1992.
A repeat is feared after the Senate Elections Committee voted Tuesday to kill the House map sent over last week.