Reeves, Hood during their first televised gubernatorial debate at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood won nearly 47 percent of the popular vote in losing the election for governor on Nov.5, but received the most votes in only 39 percent of the 122 House districts, according to official results recently compiled by the Secretary of State’s office.

Of course, to win statewide office in Mississippi under constitutional provisions enacted in 1890 to ensure African Americans were not elected to statewide office, a candidate must win a majority of the popular vote and the most votes in a majority of the 122 House districts. If no candidate achieves those electoral mandates, the election is thrown into the House to decide.

The results in the election between Hood and Republican Lt. Gov Tate Reeves seemed to re-enforce the contention of a group of black Mississippi voters who filed a federal lawsuit challenging the electoral provisions on several grounds, including the charge they dilute African American votes.  The lawsuit quoted Jonathan Rodden, a political science instructor and the director of the Stanford Spatial Social Science Lab, as saying  that the Democratic candidate (or black-preferred candidate) “would need more than 55 percent of the statewide vote in order to secure a majority of electoral (House) votes. Candidates preferred by white voters, by contrast, would be able to win the electoral vote without winning a majority of the popular vote.”

The federal lawsuit is pending before Judge Daniel Jordan of the Southern District of Mississippi.

The results compiled by the Secretary of State’s office show that Reeves won the most votes in 74 House districts compared to 48 for Hood. In terms of popular votes, Reeves defeated Hood 459,396 to 414,368 or 52 percent to 47 percent.

When the new four-year term begins on Jan. 7, Republicans will maintain a 75-46 advantage in the House with one independent. Hood won all the House districts represented by Democrats except for District 75, which includes portions of Scott and Rankin counties. That district is represented by Democrat Tom Miles. Hood won all 42 black majority districts – all of which are represented by Democrats except for District 96 which is represented by Angela Cockerham of Magnolia who won re-election as an independent.

Hood also won two districts that will be occupied by Republicans during the new four-year term – District 12 in Lafayette County and District 102 in Forrest County.

Other Democrats running for statewide office did not fare as well in terms of garnering popular votes or the most votes in the House districts. Jennifer Riley Collins was the best performer outside of Hood in terms of winning popular votes. She garnered 42 percent or 370,068 votes in losing to Republican Lynn Fitch in the race for attorney general.

Democratic State Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford, who lost to Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in the race for lieutenant governor, is the only other statewide Democrat to win the most votes in a House district that will be occupied by a Republican. He won District 12 in Lafayette County that he relinquished to run for the office of lieutenant governor. Republican Clay Deweese won the seat on Nov. 5.

Interestingly, all the statewide Democrats won District 40 in DeSoto County except for Addie Lee Green who ran unsuccessfully for treasurer. On Election Day, Democratic challenger Hester Jackson-McCray defeated Republican incumbent Ashley Henley by 14 votes to win House District 40. Henley is asking the House to overturn that election, claiming voting irregularities.

Based on the 2010 census, District 40 is 33 percent African American, making it the only white majority district that the Democratic statewide candidates other than Hood and Hughes won, thought, it appears the demographics of the district have changed significantly during the last decade.

Statewide Democrats won all of the districts with a black majority population except for House District 91, which is represented by Democrat Bob Evans of Monticello and has a black voting-age population of 53 percent, according to the 2010 census. Hood was the only statewide Democrat to win District 91.

The election results will be presented to the House on the opening day of the 2020 session on Jan, 7. If there had been an office where a candidate did not win a majority of the popular vote and the most votes in a majority of the House districts, the House members would had then selected a winner.

While the Democrats lost statewide and districtwide offices by large margins on Nov. 5, Hood’s performance for the office of governor was the best for a Democrat since 1999 when Ronnie Musgrove captured the Governor’s Mansion.

Hood in his race for governor and Mike Espy, who lost the United States Senate special election to Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith in 2018, had similar outcomes. Espy won 420,819 votes to 414,368 for Hood, but Hood garnered a slightly higher percentage of the total vote – 46.8 percent – to 46.4 for Espy.

Espy, who endorsed Hood in the election for governor, is challenging Hyde-Smith again in 2020 for a full six-year term for the U.S. Senate post.

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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.