Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Democrats seem likely to hold a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives in a special election today, but if the Republican does win, he'll be making history.
The seat is House District 82, where long-time legislator Charles Young, an African-American Democrat, died earlier this year.
There a couple reasons for Republicans to have a glimmer of optimism in this majority-minority seat. One is that Mississippi has a strange rule where special election ballots don't list the party affiliations of candidates, which may slightly reduce the Democrats' natural edge. The other is that the Republican candidate is an African-American, Bill Marcy. Marcy, interestingly, is a former Chicago cop, though his family has roots in Mississippi.
Brian Perry, a Republican operative, provided some context in the Madison County Journal:District 82 in no way resembles a Republican district. For the GOP, Treasurer Tate Reeves came the closest to winning the district in 2007 with 49.1 percent of the vote, followed closely by Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant that same year with 49 percent. Meanwhile, Al Hopkins on the same ballot for Attorney General only pulled 28.5 percent for Republicans.
In the first round of voting, in which all candidates appeared on one ballot, Democrat Wilbert Jones took 41% of the vote to Marcy's 33%. Despite Marcy's respectable showing, the results of the first round probably indicate that he won't win today. The other candidates who fell short were Democrats, meaning Jones simply needs to consolidate the support of Democratic voters to win.
Nonetheless, from what I can tell, Republicans have been eagerly touting Marcy's candidacy. The thinking, I'd guess, is that even if they lose the election, they might be able to score a small public relations victory for a party that black voters view with a great deal of skepticism.
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