Miss. House speaker mum on 2011 plans

Published 2:27 am Monday, December 20, 2010

JACKSON (AP) — The speaker of the Mississippi House says he’s not ready to reveal his own political plans for 2011.

Democrat Billy McCoy of Rienzi told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in an article published Sunday that he’ll wait until “the proper time” to discuss whether he’s seeking re-election. The 68-year-old isn’t saying when that might be.

“I do not want an announcement to figure into the session,” McCoy said. “We have so many important issues. We should not have every vote cast reflecting on who might be the next speaker.”

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McCoy is a farmer and has been in the House since January 1980, representing Prentiss and Alcorn counties. He’s in his second term as speaker of the 122-member House.

His colleagues unanimously elected him to the leadership job in January 2004. The populist won the second term by a 62-to-60 vote in January 2008, when he was challenged by Rep. Jeff Smith, a conservative Democrat from Columbus. Republicans and some Democrats sided with Smith.

The speaker presides over the House, appoints committee chairmen and assigns bills to committees.

If McCoy seeks another term as speaker, it again will be a tough contest. Several House members are lining up to run for the post in January 2012. Some will run only if McCoy doesn’t; others will seek the job regardless.

The 2011 session begins Jan. 4, and the 2012 speaker’s race could affect votes on many issues.

“I think it will have an overarching effect on every decision made, which will only complicate the process,” said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville.

McCoy said leadership fights are part of the normal process in legislative bodies.

“There is always a speaker’s race, whether announced or not,” McCoy said. “There is always a leadership fight in most all major bodies — as it should be.”

McCoy said it’s too early to worry too much about the 2012 leadership contest. Rep. Noal Akins, R-Oxford, agreed.

“There are several people already out there running or organizing,” Akins said. “That is so unnecessary. First of all, I am predicting the largest turnover in the House in a long time. With reapportionment, some will get beat. It is so premature for them to be jockeying for position.”

During a recent meeting, the Republicans opted not to endorse any candidate, but to agree to again vote in a bloc for either a fellow Republican or rural, conservative Democrat.

Several Republicans are viewed as possible candidates for speaker, along with Smith.

Democratic Reps. Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto and Warner McBride of Courtland have been cited by some as running for the post, though McBride is now running in a January special election for the Northern District Transportation Commission seat.

McCoy suffered minor strokes early in his first term as speaker after a life-threatening battle with diverticulitis, has not had any major setbacks since then. He remains active.

“Nobody has a clue from the people I have talked to about what the speaker will do,” said Rep. Brian Aldridge, R-Tupelo. “I have talked to Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives. We are all wondering what Speaker McCoy will do. I am not totally sure he knows right now what he is going to do.”


Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://nems360.com/