Gov. Tate Reeves plans to replace Republican Chairman Lucien Smith


Lucien Smith, chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, speaks at a state GOP election night victory party, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Gov. Tate Reeves, as de facto head of the Mississippi GOP, plans to replace Lucien Smith as chairman of the state party, numerous Republican sources said.
The change is not because of any major political dispute, most of those sources say, and Smith has appeared to be widely respected among party leaders. It’s partly because Smith is an attorney at a major law firm that does millions of dollars in business with the state and Reeves believes that is untoward and wants a chairman with no such entanglements.
Reeves and Smith did appear to be politically crosswise recently over the Legislature changing the state flag, with its divisive Confederate battle emblem. Although the party proper didn’t take a position, Smith told Mississippi Today, “Now is the time … for Mississippi to retire its current flag and adopt a flag that unifies all Mississippians.”
Reeves, at the time, had opposed the Legislature making the change, saying that decision should be made by popular vote.
The leadership change is not likely to happen at Saturday’s state GOP convention, which is being held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans are expected to elect a 52-member executive committee, a national committeewoman and committeeman and the party’s six electors on Saturday.
A change in the state GOP chairmanship is more likely to come after the Republican National Convention that starts Aug. 24.
“I know the governor and chairman have had conversations about a change of leadership of the party,” said Reeves’ chief of staff Brad White, himself a former MSGOP chairman. “But there’s no sense of urgency and any discussion of who (a new chairman) might be is purely speculation at this point.”