A few political predictions for 2003 …

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 31, 2002

When a new year rolls around, most people like to make resolutions. Since I know my track record with losing weight and doing more around the house, I have decided to go with predictions instead. (Mind you, I’m not saying my track record is any better in this realm, but it sure is much more fun.)

Party, party, party

Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck made Democrats bitter and Republicans enthused with her switch to the GOP. Now, those Republicans who could see control of the Senate inching their way, are salivating at the idea of more party switchers.

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Bet on it. Tuck’s key lieutenants will certainly cross the aisle before the qualifying deadline in March.

With at least four switches and some key races this year, the GOP may just take control of the Senate by the numbers. Maybe.

Whether or not that happens, look for a big change in committee chairs after the elections. While the current chairmen are set for now, Tuck &045; if re-elected &045; is expected to play fruit basket turnover with her assignments.

Translation: More tort reform bills and more conservative economics could be on their way.

The big question: Will she replace Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, as head of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee?

&uot;Basically, in Mississippi, we all lean conservatively and have the same goals, which are education, economic development and health care for our citizens,&uot; Gordon said shortly after Tuck’s switch.

Don’t bet on a change, though some Republicans have quietly been lobbying for it already.

Barbour, not Lott, for GOP gov

The &uot;what if&uot; talk &045; particularly from an elder columnist &045; has been: What if Sen. Trent Lott came back to Mississippi and ran for governor?

The idea is that expected GOP contender Haley Barbour would step aside and support Lott, who upon winning would appoint Barbour as senator. This could be accomplished by Lott waiting until his inauguration to resign his current post. Clever. Even plausible. But very little chance of coming to fruition.

Lott is damaged goods among his GOP supporters in Mississippi, and not because of his &uot;verbal gaffe,&uot; as it has been called. Lott hurt himself with Mississippians and many GOP leaders by his incessant apologies. His appearance on BET, where he moved away from conservative ideas such as ending affirmative action, only further hurt his ability to gain a GOP groundswell.

Had he stood his ground, said, &uot;I apologize if someone took what I said out of context and was hurt by it. Perhaps I was not clear in what I said, but I in no way meant anything racially insensitive by it,&uot; then perhaps he would have saved face &045; even enough to remain as majority leader.

But he didn’t, and he if comes home and runs for governor, he will face an onslaught of Democrats playing the race card to their advantage and to minorities’ disadvantage to return an unsuccessful governor back to the mansion. Bet on Lott staying where he is in 2003.

A feuding Legislature … still

Unfortunately, 2003 will probably see more of the same stupid fiscal management and infighting between the chambers. With elections coming up, expect the Legislature to overspend for a third year in a row, and expect Gov. Ronnie Musgrove &045; and his successor (I predict Musgrove to be a one-termer) &045; to have to swing the budget ax again.

Furthermore, with a new House leader to be elected in 2004 and Tuck now a Republican, expect political posturing to slow the process of a stubborn Legislature.

Sam R. Hall is editor and publisher of The Times-Post. He can be reached at (662) 456-3771 or by e-mail to sam.hall@timespost.com.