TUPELO • In the state Senate, Lee County is carved up across three districts, but will only have one incumbent Republican returning to office when a new four-year term begins in January.
Chad McMahan, a Republican from Guntown, represents Senate District 6, and will begin a second term in 2020 after running for re-election unopposed.
Staring down a fifth year in the legislature, the former Guntown alderman who touts his blue collar roots anticipates that he’ll be well positioned to play a larger role in the state capitol.
“Now that I’ve got some experience under my belt I’ll be able to do a better job for the people I represent,” McMahan said.
On the Republican side of the ledger, that’s experience the greater Lee County area may need. A rash of retirements ushered in a number of new faces among the ranks of lawmakers.
In Senate District 8, which includes Lee County, Bruce attorney Benjamin Suber will take office, replacing the soon-to-be-retired Russell Jolly. Jolly was among the dwindling ranks of white Democrats in the state legislature, and Suber is a Republican.
Outside Lee County, but within the area, senate districts 3, 5 and 9 are among those that will see new faces representing the seat.
Turning back to Lee County, in Senate District 7, longtime legislator Hob Bryan, an Amory Democrat, ran unopposed, like McMahan. He has been one of the few Democrats to hold a chairmanship in the Senate.
Whether Bryan retains a chairmanship will rest in the hands of the incoming lieutenant governor, Delbert Hosemann.
Hosemann has sounded bipartisan notes in discussions about how he’ll lead the Senate, even as recently as last week in a column his office distributed.
“No matter our political differences, we all have a common goal: seeing Mississippi rise to its fullest potential,” Hosemann said.
The outgoing secretary of state, Hosemann has of late touted his efforts to take over as presiding officer of the state Senate. By now, Hosemann has personally met with most members of the state Senate.
In his meeting with Hosemann, McMahan said the two men were able to pivot quickly to talks about policy and McMahan’s committee wishlist.
“Delbert and I already had a wonderful relationship over the last four years,” McMahan said. “We didn’t have to talk long to get to know each other.”
Throughout his campaign and since the election, Hosemann has pledged to increase transparency in state government by livestreaming senate committee sessions over the internet.
This pledge is just one part of a wider expectation among some incoming lawmakers and political watchers that the committee system will function in a newly robust fashion under Hosemann.
While he was careful not to criticize Tate Reeves – the outgoing lieutenant governor and incoming governor – McMahan indicated that he shares the expectation of fresh attention to the nuts and bolts of the legislative process.
“I think Delbert Hosemann is committed to allowing the institution to working the way the institution was designed,” McMahan said. “The committee system operated under Tate Reeves, but I think the committee system is going to be expanded and there is going to be a lot more testimony before the committees.”
With such a system in place, a good relationship with the lieutenant governor and a bit of hands-on experience to draw upon, McMahan hopes to push bills related to education, rural development and local needs like a regional wastewater treatment facility serving Guntown, Baldwyn and Saltillo.
“I’m really excited about the opportunities,” McMahan said. “I understand better now how legislation needs to be crafted. Not just how to write legislation, but how to craft it.”