South Mississippi is guaranteed to have at least four new state legislators after the 2019 election cycle concludes in November.
And the first step in that process is nine contested legislative races that will be decided in the party primaries Tuesday.
Four incumbents — state Reps. David Baria and Scott DeLano, and State Sens. Tommy Gollott and Michael Watson — are stepping down from their current posts. Gollott retired, Baria did not seek re-election and DeLano and Watson are seeking different offices. Watson is running for secretary of state and DeLano is trying to move from the House to the state Senate.
DeLano is running against Biloxi City Councilwoman Dixie Newman for the District 50 Senate seat previously held by Gollott. The district is in Harrison County and Biloxi. Both DeLano and Newman are Republicans, so the race will be decided during the primary. Both campaigns say they have been out talking to as many voters as they can.
DeLano said he wants to switch chambers to help fill the leadership void caused by the departure of Gollott, who has served for 52 years and is the state’s longest serving legislator.
“For me to be able to walk in seamlessly is tremendously beneficial” for South Mississippi, he said, adding his top campaign issues are bringing in more education funding to the Coast and ensuring the BP oil spill recovery money is spent to promote economic development that brings along new, high-paying jobs.
Newman did not respond to an interview request from the Sun Herald. According to her Web site, she has sought public office previously because she is “confident she could provide a fresh and diverse perspective” for constituents.
On the House side, one contested race involves two-term incumbent Manly Barton and software developer Joshua Hardy. They are vying for the seat in District 109, which includes parts of Jackson and George counties.
Barton said his top issues are increasing teacher pay, placing more emphasis on vocational training and making sure the state delivers on its planned health care services.
“Is there anybody that doesn’t believe the Legislature needs to do more with funding for education?” Barton said. Hardy said he wants the Legislature to further discuss school vouchers and to put into place restrictions on how much people pay in state income tax on second jobs. “If someone is working a second job, they need that money,” he said. “It shouldn’t be touched.” He said he would also work with the federal delegation on the tax issue.
Several additional legislative races will be held in the November general election.