Four new lawmakers are joining the Mississippi Legislature after voters in two House districts and two Senate districts voted in special elections to fill the vacant seats on Thursday. Though the candidates appeared on the ballot with no party identification because state special elections are non-partisan, they did share their party allegiance on the campaign trail.
The new group of candidates includes three Republicans and one Democrat—all of the same party as their respective predecessors.
Bart Williams, Senate District 15
Starkville businessman Bart Williams, a Republican, defeated fellow Republican Joyce Meek Yates, a teacher, for the Senate District 15 seats that include parts of Choctaw, Montgomery, Oktibbeha and Webster counties. During the campaign, he cited his experience as a business owner and said he would prioritize seniors, schools and “conservative values.”
“It’s a blessing and an honor to be elected to serve District 15 in the Mississippi Senate. I’m so thankful for the friends and family in Oktibbeha County and across the district who have worked with me in this campaign. I couldn’t have done it without you,” Williams told supporters on Facebook last night, thanking Yates for “running a clean race” and praising her “passion and energy” for their district.
Williams vowed to “continue to be accessible and to pursue real solutions for our communities and our state.” He replaces former GOP Sen. Gary Jackson, who resigned over the summer due to health issues.
Jason Barrett, Senate District 39
Another Republican, Brookhaven attorney Jason Barrett, also defeated a Republican rival, Bill Sones, in Senate District 39. It includes parts of Copiah, Lawrence, Lincoln and Walthall counties.
During the campaign, Barrett told voters he was anti-abortion, “conservative Republican who will protect your constitutional rights and support fully funding public education.” He also promised to work for “accessible, affordable health care” and to help rural hospitals, many of which are struggling financially.
“(My wife) Brandi and I sincerely appreciate your prayers throughout the campaign,” Barrett told supporters in a Facebook post last night. “We are thankful for everyone who gave so generously of their time and efforts, and supported us through calls, texts, social media and signs. I remain dedicated to being a strong and trusted voice for all, while providing fair and transparent leadership as we work together to build a better Southwest Mississippi.”
Barrett replaces former Sen. Sally Doty, who vacated her seat after Gov. Tate Reeves appointed her to head the Public Utilities Staff.
Lynn Wright, House District 37
The Mississippi House is set to welcome a former Lowndes County superintendent to its ranks when it reconvenes after Republican Lynn Wright of Columbus won the House District 37 race. The district includes parts of Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties.
He ran while touting support for more infrastructure funding, rural broadband access and public education, including pre-K programs and “cutting-edge programs in college prep and career technology.”
Wright also vowed to support the “maintenance” of what he calls “Judeo-Christian values,” citing opposition to abortion, a “pro-prayer anywhere” stance and said he supports “favoring and encouraging traditional family structures and values”—terms that conservative politicians use to signal opposition to legal rights for same-sex couples and their families.
He defeated businessman David M. Chism, who described himself as “an open-hearted Republican” with a libertarian-leaning philosophy. Chism had hoped to claim the seat that his cousin, former Rep. Gary Chism, had held for 20 years before resigning over the summer.
De’Keither Stamps, House District 66
In Hinds County, former Jackson City Councilman De’Keither Stamps, a Democrat, won the House District 66 race to replace former Democratic Rep. Jarvis Dortch, who left the chamber to take on a new role as the director of the Americans Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi. Stamps defeated Robert C. Lee Jr., a former teacher.
During the campaign, Stamps pledged to work to grow Mississippi’s business prospects globally, support “pre-K for all” and “trade school for all,” and increase Hinds County’s hospital capacity and mental health services. He also vowed to work on other local issues that are often on the top of constituents’ minds, like funding for Hinds County’s many dilapidated roads and bridges and helping with water bill assistance.
Stamps watched the election-night returns with his opponent, Lee, whom he thanked with a Facebook message as the results came in.
“Thanks so much to Mr. Bob Lee for running a very honorable campaign. I look forward to moving Hinds county forward together,” Stamps wrote, attaching a photo of himself shaking hands with Lee.
The new lawmakers will serve out the remainder of their predecessors’ terms, which all end in January 2024. The new senators and representatives can run for re-election for full four year terms when all legislative seats are on the ballot in the 2023 state elections.