Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn speaks during the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.

Incumbent Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton was selected by his Republican colleagues to continue as the presiding officer in the Mississippi House for the next four-year term starting in early January.

The Republican caucus’ decision to support Gunn for a new four-year term was expected.

The 74-member Republican caucus met at the Mississippi Agriculture Museum Thursday to throw its support behind Gunn and for Jason White of West to be the next speaker pro tem.

No other member of the caucus challenged Gunn or White for the posts.

The Republicans, who hold a three-fifths super majority in the 122-member House, are expected to vote unanimously for Gunn and White  on the opening day of the session, formalizing the decisions made Thursday.

White, who has served as chair of the Rules Committee, was elected to the House in 2011 as a Democrat, but soon afterward – December 2012 — switched to the Republican Party. He was Gunn’s choice to serve as pro-tem, replacing Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, who was defeated earlier this year in a Republican primary.

Gunn has served the past two terms as speaker, replacing Billy McCoy of Prentiss County. Gunn was the state’s first Republican speaker since the late 1800s. The last Republican speaker before Gunn was Isaac Shadd, an African American newspaper owner

It was expected that Republicans would maintain their majority in the House in Tuesday’s elections. They lost one seat.

Rep. Donnie Bell, R-Fulton, said he believed both Gunn and White would do good jobs.

“They both were my desk mates. I trained both of them,” Bell joked.

Rep. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie, also said he was satisfied with the selection.

But he added, “I don’t get too caught up in that. I know they are powerful positions, but the members will have the opportunity to vote and debate the issues.”

The pro-tem handles the management of the House staff and presides in the absence of the speaker.

The state Senate also will have to decide on a new pro-tem. Terry Burton, R-Newton, resigned from the post early in 2019 and was replaced by Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, who did not run for re-election. Many political observers believe Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, is the front-runner for the post.

Normally, the lieutenant governor plays a role in the selection of the pro-tem, though, the post is voted on by the 52 members of the Senate.

Republicans gained three seats in Tuesday’s election and now have a commanding 36-16 majority. Republican Delbert Hosemann, a three term secretary of state, defeated state Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford to win the open seat of lieutenant governor, who presides over the Senate.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.