FROM THE VAULT: 1970s bring political change to Mississippi

Women break the glass ceiling, and Republicans gain traction.
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 2:27 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - In 1975, something happened that had never happened in Mississippi before: Voters elected a woman to serve as lieutenant governor.

Democrat Evelyn Gandy had previously been elected insurance commissioner and state treasurer. She is still the only woman to be elected to all three of those statewide offices.

Evelyn Gandy in the 1980s
Evelyn Gandy in the 1980s(WLBT)

Gandy died in 2007, but she’d lived long enough to see another woman in the lieutenant governor’s office. Fellow Democrat Amy Tuck was elected in 1999.

“We believe she’ll make this state an outstanding lieutenant governor,” Gandy told WLBT on the night Tuck was elected.

After about three years on the job, Tuck made headlines again when she switched to the Republican party.

“Yesterday I represented the people of Mississippi as a Democrat,” Tuck said at a news conference in the Capitol rotunda on December 2, 2002. “Today, I am honored to represent the people of Mississippi as a Republican.”

Amy Tuck on December 2, 2002
Amy Tuck on December 2, 2002(WLBT)

Tuck got re-elected in 2003 and served another four-year term.

Tuck’s switch to the GOP reflected a larger shift that also had its roots in the ‘70s. In 1978, Congressman Thad Cochran became the first Republican Senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction, replacing longtime Democratic Senator Jim Eastland.

Thad Cochran being sworn-in to the U.S. Senate in 1978
Thad Cochran being sworn-in to the U.S. Senate in 1978(WLBT)

Ten years later another Republican, Congressman Trent Lott from the Coast, replaced longtime Democratic Senator John Stennis.

Trent Lott during his U.S. Senate campaign in 1987
Trent Lott during his U.S. Senate campaign in 1987(WLBT)

The days when nearly every political race in Mississippi was decided in the Democratic primary were gone, replaced by a mostly competitive two-party system.

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