‘Toxic environment’ | North Jackson lawmaker gives up party affiliation following redistricting vote

Rep. Shanda Yates
Rep. Shanda Yates(State of Mississippi)
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 2:37 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The fallout from a vote on the House Congressional redistricting plan has caused a North Jackson lawmaker to give up her party affiliation.

Thursday, District 64 Rep. Shanda Yates announced that she was leaving the Democratic Party, saying that the move was needed so she could better represent her constituents.

Yates was elected as a Democrat in 2019. She defeated longtime incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Denny.

She was serving as the vice-chair of the House Democratic Delegation for the city of Jackson.

The announcement came less than a week after she broke ranks with her fellow Democrats to vote in favor of a plan that expands Rep. Bennie Thompson’s district to take in nearly 40 percent of the entire state.

“It was made clear to me by some members of my own caucus within the Democratic Party that I was no longer welcome within the party or the caucus,” Yates said. “And in an effort to clear the way to let them do what they thought was best, I agreed to step aside.”

Yates voted in favor of the Republican plan after speaking with her constituents.

Yates represents parts of Northeast Jackson, South Madison County, and the Barnett Reservoir.

The district has a large Republican base, and many residents told her they did not want to be part of District 2, which has long been a Democratic stronghold.

The Democratic redistricting plan would have moved those residents into the district, unlike the Republican plan, which expanded District 2 significantly to the north and to the south.

“It wasn’t that anyone was saying they didn’t like Bennie Thompson. It was simply that they felt their interests would be more in line with the areas around the congressional district they are already in, and they wanted to be left that way,” she said.

The Republican-backed redistricting plan passed on 76-42 votes, almost entirely along party lines. The Republicans control the House with a 77-43-2 majority, according to Ballotpedia.

The Mississippi Democratic Party posted a copy of Yates’ letter on social media, saying, “Mississippi Democrats, take NOTICE.”

Yates said she was taken aback by the party’s Tweet, and responded with a series of Tweets herself.

“Those closest to me and those who work with me on a daily basis know that my beliefs and my ideals remain steadfast. My decision to leave the Democratic Party was made because I felt that it was the only option I had to remove myself from a toxic environment,” she wrote.

She reiterated that point in an interview with WLBT. ‘I will continue to focus on securing the necessary funds to make critical repairs to the city of Jackson’s water and sewer infrastructure. Additionally, I will continue to work with state, county, and city officials to develop, implement and fund a strategic plan to combat the crime epidemic within our capital city.”

“I’m still certainly friends with a large portion of people in the Democratic caucus,” she said. “My politics have not changed. My goals have not changed. My agenda has not changed. The letter behind my name has changed.”

Mississippi Democratic Party Chair Tyree Irving was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.

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