Every year in Mississippi provides great fodder for political commentary. Year 2010 was no exception.

The year ended much as the year went for Democrats, with fewer elected officials. On Dec. 28, the Mississippi Republican Party held what has become a routine press conference and announced the switch of yet more elected Democratic officials to the MSGOP. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven and Rep. Bobby Shows of Ellisville brought the total number of legislators to switch in the past two years to four. Counting a public service commissioner, a district attorney, and a number of local officials, seventeen Democratic elected officials were welcomed by Gov. Haley R. Barbour to the Republican Party.

Those switches highlighted the Democratic Party's continued shift leftward as many conservatives sought refuge elsewhere. Nothing highlights that drift more than 2010's Congressional Elections. Republican Alan Nunnelee ousted incumbent Democratic Congressman Travis Childers in Northeast Mississippi. Nunnelee often said at his rallies that the race wasn't really about him, or even about his opponent. It was about leadership - namely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Childers-Nunnelee campaign was a real race, but the conservative leaning district had been largely expected to move into the Republican column. The bigger surprise was the defeat of twenty-one year Democratic incumbent Gene Taylor from the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Republican Steven Palazzo. Taylor portrayed himself as a maverick, an almost independent, and a thorn in the side of Washington Democrats. He had opposed Democratic House leadership, until 2006 and 2008 when he changed course and voted for Pelosi. His fellow Democrats cheered him and applauded him and he smiled. The video of that event told his district a different story.

Much of that Republican momentum came from the grassroots including the Mississippi Tea Party that poured energy and resources into those races. The Tea Party was also critical in collecting the signatures for three ballot initiatives: Voter ID, Personhood and Eminent Domain. Only twice before have initiatives made the ballot so this in itself is politically significant.

In other news, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson was cleared in an ethics investigation which determined he did not know rules had been broken; but he was required to repay costs of a Caribbean trip sponsored by corporate money in violation of House Ethics Rules. More of the story came out on Attorney General Jim Hood's pursuit of State Farm when a judge unsealed court records at the request of media outlets; meanwhile Hood declined to argue against the Obama healthcare plan on behalf of Mississippi. The University of Mississippi hosted Bill Clinton and honored Steve Guyton. The national press swooned for Haley Barbour; then attacked him on racial issues.

A new web site called SeeTheSpending.org opened up state spending to any who want to see where their taxpayer dollars go. We could also see the oil as we watched and worked and worried as it washed up on Coast beaches.

We elected and mostly reelected judges this year. The Mississippi Supreme Court dodged the question of tort reform caps, but upheld the principles of the Castle Doctrine. And the second of two books on the Dickie Scruggs judicial corruption scandal hit the shelves this year.

The Choctaws opened a new gaming facility in Jones County; MDOT Executive Director Butch Brown was arrested in a gaming facility in Harrison County; and in another gaming facility MDOT Commissioner Bill Minor had a heart attack and passed away. His seat along with the legislative seats of Nunnelee and Palazzo will all be up in a special election on January 11.

Those elections will just be a taste of what political junkies will follow in 2011. We will be watching to see what role Barbour plays on the national stage regarding the 2012 presidential campaign: candidate, kingmaker, running mate, or a voice on domestic issues.

Closer to home, we have the once in a decade redistricting; a tough budget; and elections from the county level to an open governor's seat. It is for that reason I have to leave this column once again. Jim Prince, publisher of the Madison County Journal first provided me this writing opportunity in 1997 and I wrote for six years before taking an opportunity in DC, and then returned to write for three more years. Now I will cease again for another opportunity. I will be working for Coast businessman Dave Dennis, a Republican candidate for governor. I have been able to write on politics and issues without conflict among my public affairs firm's clients, newspaper publishers, and the trust of the readers. But there needs to be a clear separation of when I speak for myself and when I speak for the Dennis Campaign, and so for now, I thank you for reading, for writing to me, and I hope you've found my thoughts at least reasonably right.



Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.