New Miss. lawmakers await certification of runoff results

Published 5:19 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Officials face a deadline this Friday to certify results of last week’s runoffs for three legislative seats. That will clear the way for winners to take the oath of office and fill jobs that have been vacant for months.

Then, because two House members won other offices in the runoffs, according to unofficial results, another round of special elections will be set in the next few weeks.

It’s unclear whether all 122 Mississippi House seats will be filled when the three-month legislative session starts Jan. 2.

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Rep. Joey Fillingane, R-Petal, will move from the House to the Senate if, as expected, he is certified the winner of one of the Nov. 21 special-election runoffs. He says he won’t let his constituents go without a voice at the Capitol.

“I’ll just pull double duty and try to take care of as many calls as we can until we get some reinforcements,” Fillingane said from his law office on Monday.

Rep. Virginia Carlton, R-Columbia, is awaiting certification as winner of a Court of Appeals race, and her eight-year term on the court begins Jan. 1.

Both Fillingane and Carlton must resign from the House before Gov. Haley Barbour can set special elections to fill their seats. They say they have not yet decided when to step down.

The other winners of the Nov. 21 runoffs, pending certification, are Republican Lydia Graves Chassaniol of Winona in the Senate, who will succeed the late Sen. Robert “Bunky” Huggins, R-Greenwood; and Democrat Linda Whittington of Schlater, who will succeed her cousin by marriage, the late Rep. May Whittington, D-Schlater. Fillingane will succeed the late Sen. Billy Harvey, D-Prentiss.

Harvey, Huggins and May Whittington all died of cancer earlier this year.

Republican Steven Palazzo of Biloxi already has been certified the winner of another special House election. He won on Nov. 7, avoiding a runoff. He will succeed former Rep. Leonard Bentz, R-Biloxi, who left the House when Barbour appointed him to the three-member Public Service Commission.

The new lawmakers will serve the rest of this four-year term, which ends in January 2008.

Carlton’s House District 100 includes parts of Jefferson Davis, Lamar and Marion counties. She was first elected to the seat in November 2003.

Fillingane’s House District 101 includes parts of Lamar and Forrest counties. He first won the seat in November 1999.