House Republicans elect Jason White as new speaker, Manly Barton as speaker pro tempore


Republican House members chose Jason White as the chamber’s next speaker, elevating a new person to one of the most powerful political roles in Mississippi for the next four years.

The 79-member GOP caucus met Wednesday morning at the Annandale Golf Club in Madison, according to multiple lawmakers. Unanimously and without dissent, the caucus threw its support behind White, a three-term lawmaker from West, to become its new leader. They also elected Manly Barton, a lawmaker from Moss Point, to become the new speaker pro tempore and second in command.

“I appreciate the trust my fellow Republicans have now placed in me as the nominee for Speaker,” White said in a statement. “I am energized going into the 2024 Legislative Session, and I look forward to addressing the challenges and opportunities facing our state with conservative policies and principles.”

The closed-door meeting this week is technically an unofficial coronation of the speaker. After this week’s vote, House Republicans, who hold a two-thirds supermajority in the 122-member House, are expected to stick to this week’s vote and unanimously elect White and Barton on the opening day of the 2024 session, formalizing the decisions they made on Wednesday.

White, 50, was first elected to the House in 2011 as a Democrat, but he quickly switched to the Republican Party that next year. He represents portions of Attala, Carroll, Holmes and Leake counties and previously led the House Rules Committee and the House Management Committee.

White will replace Philip Gunn, a Republican from Clinton, who announced last year that he would not seek another term for his House seat. White was one of Gunn’s top lieutenants and most trusted advisers over the past three terms.

The speaker is not a statewide office position, but it carries power and influence similar to a statewide post. The speaker appoints committee leaders in the House and helps drive policy decisions during a legislative session.

Similar to the speaker of the U.S. House, a majority of the Mississippi House’s members must agree on a person to lead the chamber. But since the GOP gained a tight grip on the Capitol’s lower chamber, they typically meet behind closed doors to decide on a leader.

After the private meeting, the formal, public vote during the start of the new, four-year term has mostly become a predictable affair with little drama.

Barton was first elected to the House in 2011 and sworn into office in 2012. He represents portions of George and Jackson counties and previously chaired the House Local and Private Committee.

The speaker pro tempore presides over the House when the speaker is absent and often serves as a key advisor to the speaker.

Lawmakers will convene at the Capitol on Jan. 2 for the start of the 2024 session.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.