In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Haley Barbour seemed like he was ready to smoke his victory cigar. "It's a great day," the governor-elect said with a smile. "It's a great day."
Barbour's victory could help republican lawmakers such as Representative Roger Ishee push through important South Mississippi legislation.
"I believe we have their attention more than we ever had before," the Gulfport republican said.
On the campaign trail, Barbour often said South Mississippi would be his key to victory. As it turned out, the governor-elect got more votes in the six coast counties than in any other area of the state. Lt. Governor Amy Tuck had similar support.
"Of course, judging from the vote we gave the two of them," Rep. Ishee said, "I think we carry even more weight with both the governor and the lieutenant governor."
Ishee was one of the house members at a Leadership Gulf Coast workshop. Billy Hewes represented the senate. He said more weight could mean more committee appointments, and more power for the South Mississippi delegation.
"We ought to see the numbers improve," the Gulfport senator said. "We ought to see the significance of the positions, more powerful committee chairmanships. We're certainly hopeful that will come about."
Sen. Hewes and his legislative colleagues happened to be holding their leadership talk at USM Gulf Coast. The Long Beach campus is where you'll find Dr. Denise Von Herrmann. She's a political science professor who believes the new republican ticket in Jackson can be South Mississippi's ticket to prominence.
"It tells me that South Mississippi and some of our needs and interests are possibly going to have a solid shot at really coming to the fore in Jackson this year," she said.
If a republican governor and a republican lieutenant governor can make that happen, coast lawmakers say they'll light their own victory cigar.