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Speaker Philip Gunn announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election to the House next year, ending the third-longest presidency in state history.

“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve as Speaker of the Mississippi House,” Gunn said in a statement. “I am extremely grateful to the people of District 56 who gave me the opportunity to serve them over the past 20 years and to the members of the Chamber who entrusted me with the role of President for 12 years. I believe we have moved Mississippi forward in a positive direction, and I am proud of what we have accomplished together and look forward to another productive session in 2023. “Having said that, I have decided not to represent for House District 56. The end of my service as president does not mean that I will not be open to future opportunities to serve,” Gunn said. “I love our state and will always work to make it better. I believe there will soon be an opportunity for me to serve our state and when that time comes I will be ready.

Gunn first made the announcement to members of his GOP House caucus during a meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, praised his House counterpart.

“My friend, Philip Gunn, has decided to suspend his public service to the state,” Hosemann said. “His fingerprints exist over most of Mississippi’s legislative history for his 12 years as president. From child trafficking to tax reform (legislation), he provided consistent conservative and religious leadership to his colleagues.

House Education chairman Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, one of Gunn’s top lieutenants, said: “I wasn’t surprised, but for selfish reasons I’m disappointed because I think Philip did a wonderful job,” House Education President Richard Bennett said. , R-long. He is the best speaker I have known in my time. His ethics, his morals and his desire to do the right thing – it’s in his DNA. He does not just talk, he follows the walk. You will see that in whatever he decides to do in the future… He said he has no plans at the moment. He will join the private sector at some point. It will just be a huge loss not only for the House of Representatives, but for the State of Mississippi. That’s why I hope he will return to the public arena.

Gunn’s announcement ends more than a year of speculation about Gunn’s future – particularly whether he could make a run for governor in 2023. He made such overtures last year, including included fundraisers and trips across the state, but had seemed cool about challenging the incumbent Republican. Governor Tate Reeves. He had also been discussed more recently as a possible candidate to lead the state’s community college system.

A resident of Clinton, Gunn was elected to the House in 2003 and quickly established himself as a key voice in the Republican caucus. When Republicans won a majority in the House following the 2011 election, Gunn was elected president by the 122-member House, the first Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction.

Gunn helped boost the number of Republicans in the House, as the 2015 election resulted in a GOP supermajority. He successfully championed numerous tax cuts during his tenure, but has so far failed with what he said is his No. 1 policy priority, the elimination of income tax. individual.

A social conservative and devout Baptist, Gunn also supported the elimination of abortion. This was accomplished with a United States Supreme Court decision in a case involving a Mississippi House bill backed by Gunn.

State Representative Nick Bain of Corinth, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party ahead of the 2019 election, said, “He’s been good to me. He was kind to my constituents in Alcorn County…I have nothing but good things to say about him.

Gunn was one of the first state-level Republicans to advocate for the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag. Gunn did so after a white supremist killed nine people at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. The killer had featured a Confederate flag in his social media posts.

For years, Gunn’s Republican caucus hasn’t expressed interest in following his lead on the state flag. But in 2020, legislation came out of the House championed by Gunn and ultimately approved by the entire Legislature removing the state flag and establishing a panel to recommend a new flag to be placed on the ballot. Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved of the new flag without the Confederate symbol.

House Speaker Protem Jason White, R-West, is seen by many as the heir apparent to the presidency, although Gunn reportedly did not endorse a successor in caucus on Wednesday.

“He told everyone that it was not up to him to give up his seat to anyone, it would be in the House of Representatives,” Bennett said. “…But I think Jason (White) is the main person and I’d be surprised if Jason wasn’t the next speaker in the House.”

Bain said of a possible white run for president, “If Jason runs, he’ll have my full support.”

— Article credit to Geoff Pender and Bobby Harrison of Mississippi Today —

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