JACKSON -- David Baria, a Bay St.Louis attorney and small business owner, has been selected by the minority party in the Mississippi House to serve as its leader.
The 48 Democrats in the 122-member House met late Tuesday afternoon to select Baria, 53.
Baria is beginning his second term in the House after serving one term in the state Senate.
He had previously indicated he was not interested in the position, but said Tuesday afternoon several colleagues whom he respected had approached him about taking the post.
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"I want the people of Mississippi to understand that we are the party that believes in protecting the working man and believes in protecting the rights of individuals," he said. "We believe government can serve the greater good.
"We have to do a better job with our messaging. It appears the default position for Mississippians right now is to vote Republican because Republicans have been better at messaging, but I don't think they have been better at governing."
Rep. Jay Hughes, an Oxford freshman, also vied for the post.
Other officers elected by the Democrats included Robert Johnson of Natchez as assistant minority leader.
Rep. John Faulkner of Holly Springs will serve as communications liaison.
"I have sat next to David for the past four years," said Rep. Nick Bain, D-Corinth. "I know he is committed to helping people."
Baria and the House Democrats face the obstacle of Republicans holding a super majority or three-fifths majority.
Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto who served as Democratic leader for the past four years was defeated in his re-election effort in the November general election where Republicans had a net gain of seven seats.