East Mississippi will see new leaders in Jackson when legislators convene in January.
Two incumbent Mississippi legislators, Greg Snowden and William Shirley, lost to newcomers Tuesday night, and voters in Senate District 33 chose a new leader to succeed retiring Sen. Videt Carmichael.
In Senate District 31, a Republican from Newton will face a Democrat from Scott County in the general election, with the winner succeeding longtime Sen. Terry C. Burton.
House District 83: Snowden out, Calvert in
Longtime State Rep. Greg Snowden narrowly lost to businessman Billy Adam Calvert. Calvert received 2,598 votes, totaling 52 percent of ballots cast. Snowden got 2,353 votes, or 48 percent.
Snowden, the speaker pro tempore in the House, will hold his seat until January 2, 2020, when Calvert is sworn in.
The district covers Lauderdale County and the northern part of Clarke County.
Calvert was “back in the real world” Wednesday morning, he said over the phone, working at his family business, Southern Business Supply & Interiors in Marion. Earlier in the morning, he talked on the phone with House Speaker Philip Gunn.
“We’re going to meet sometime later this week,” said Calvert, whose focus in January will be making the rounds and joining committees.
“I’m excited, happy, and want to thank the voters for getting out and voting,” he said.
Throughout the race, Snowden pointed to his experience in the House as one reason to be re-elected. In a July interview, he told The Meridian Star that seniority matters, especially when longtime legislators such as Burton, the president pro tempore in the State Senate, plan to retire.
Calvert said he appreciated Snowden “keeping the race clean” but added that “sometimes you forget who put you [in Jackson],” which was a factor in his election, he thinks.
“Look at the last 20 years,” Calvert said. “I’m not happy where we’re at.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve for this amount of time,” said Snowden. “It’s a high honor, and I know I’ve served well.”
“The folks have chosen a new direction, and we have to accept that.”
Asked if he had any advice for Calvert on networking, Snowden said it will be “challenging like it is for any new people.”
“It was a challenge for me when I was new,” Snowden said, adding that he will help in any way he can.
House District 84: Smith beats Shirley, will face May
Clarke County Supervisor Troy Smith beat incumbent Rep. William Shirley in a landslide, securing 3,573 votes, or 73 percent. He will face independent candidate Roy May on Nov. 5.
The district covers Clarke County and the eastern parts of Newton County and Jasper County.
“I was overwhelmed,” said Smith. “I didn’t expect that. I was blessed. Now, I gotta pick it up and we gotta do it again. I’ll be coming back around and seeing people.”
Frustration with taxes and the shape of roads was a catalyst in his nomination, he said.
“I’ve always said: when the rubber meets the road is the supervisors’ room. Either you’re going to raise taxes or cut them.”
“Our infrastructure is our main thing. This was getting overlooked in our district.”
Economic development and healthcare issues will also be a focus in office, he said.
He said he will have a unique perspective in the Legislature as a former county supervisor.
“All (those issues) need to be addressed and not handed down to taxpayers,” he said. “Other states around us have done something different. We need to work with strategists. We need to copy and find a system that works for other states.”
He referenced then-Gov. Mike Pence’s Medicaid plan in Indiana as an example.
The plan has been compared to Mississippi Cares, a plan proposed by the Mississippi Hospital Association that would extend coverage to 300,000 people stuck in insurance gaps.
Senate District 33: Tate wins over Johnston
Former Lauderdale County Election Commissioner Jeff Tate won by a large margin over Erle “Bubby” Johnston, a retired newspaper editor and public relations official at a community college. The seat was up for the taking after longtime Sen. Videt Carmichael said he would not seek re-election.
District 33 encompasses Clarke County and Lauderdale County.
“I think for East Mississippi, one of our top priorities needs to be looking at helping our hospitals,” said Tate. “It’s such a huge asset here.”
He added that raising teacher pay to “entice them to come and stay here” will also be a priority when he arrives to Jackson.
Tate commended Johnston for the fact that he “never went negative.”
“I really appreciate that,” he said.
Senate District 31: McCaughn takes nomination, will face Marlow
Farmer and attorney Tyler McCaughn will be in November’s general election against Democrat Mike Marlow after beating fellow Republican Hampton Gardner Tuesday. McCaughn won with 6,657 votes, or 73 percent.
“Any success is a journey” McCaughn said Tuesday night. “It’s about the people that accompany you there.”
“My race will be focused on what I can do for my people,” he said when asked how he will spar with Marlow. “We’ll be ready for the race in November.”
Community leaders look to work with new blood
East Mississippi Business Development Corporation President Bill Hannah plans to stay in touch and work with new legislators, just as he did with old ones, he said.
Economic development was a major focus in the races.
“They’re new, so there will be a new relationship with them,” he said. “Most of these folks, we know them, just not in this capacity. It’s everybody on deck when it comes to successful economic development.”
On those kicked out by voters, Hannah added that “they all come and go, and so do folks like me.”
“(EMBDC’s) role is to build an environment and culture … so any one or two people in or out doesn’t change anything,” he said.
Meridian Community College President Tom Huebner said he knows several candidates who won their races Tuesday night.
“It’s the nature of our community,” he said. “I know those individuals and have a good relationship with them. I’m looking forward to getting to know them better and work with them.”
He said one area that he will discuss is maintaining a low cost of education, which is increasing.
“It’s important that we look for ways to keep community college education affordable, to take care of our people,” he said.
Runoffs in county races
In the Lauderdale County District 2 supervisor race, Democratic candidates Craig Houston and Loretta "Lo Lo Allen" Bennett are headed to a runoff on Aug. 27.
In Tuesday’s primary, Houston had 677 votes, Bennett had 436 and Cornelius Parks garnered 237 votes. The winner of the runoff will face Wayman Newell, the incumbent Republican, in the Nov. 5 general election.