Republicans flip Senate seat, retain House seat in special elections

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A 29-year-old Republican from Potts Camp won a Senate seat vacated by the former Senate Democratic leader in a special election Tuesday night, adding another Republican vote to the three-thirds supermajority.

The Mississippi seat is the first legislative seat in the nation to flip from Democrat to Republican since President Donald Trump was elected last November.

Neil Whaley of Potts Camp, a Republican, defeated Sharon Gipson of Holly Springs, a Democrat, in the special Senate election to fill the north Mississippi seat left vacant by former Sen. Bill Stone, D-Holly Springs, who stepped down earlier this year to become manager of a local municipal utility.

Neil Whaley

Whaley received 3,590 votes, or 55 percent, while Gipson earned 2,960 votes, or 45 percent.

“This race is further proof that, in places like Mississippi, you can be a conservative or a Democrat, but you can’t be both, and it is becoming even harder for Mississippi Democrats to distance themselves from the failed liberal policies of their friends in Washington D.C.,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement following the election.

Republicans quietly poised to flip Senate seat on Tuesday

The seat in question, Senate District 10, was redrawn by the Legislature in 2012 for a Republican to win as leaders banked on former Sen. Steve Hale to switch parties. Hale chose not to switch, leaving the Republicans without a candidate in 2015. Stone soundly defeated Hale in the Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the general election.

In Vicksburg, a Republican won a House seat vacated by Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg, who resigned his seat after being elected Vicksburg alderman in June.

Kevin Ford, a Republican, defeated Randy Easterling, another Republican, in a special House race Tuesday night.

Ford garnered 1,386 votes, or 60 percent, while Easterling earned 917 votes, or 40 percent.

Republicans in both the House and the Senate enjoy three-fifths supermajorities, meaning no Democratic votes are necessary to pass any legislation, including tax and budget bills.

Special legislative election candidates do not officially declare party affiliation in accordance with state law, though candidates typically indicate which party they would caucus with if elected.

One Senate seat remains vacant. Former Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, was appointed to the state Court of Appeals by Gov. Phil Bryant, and Bryant set a special election for that seat on Dec. 19.

The 2018 legislative session will begin Jan. 2 and is scheduled to end on April 1. The new legislators will be sworn in before the legislative session begins.