Melanie Sojourner helped make it a good day for Republicans in Southwest Mississippi and statewide even better.

The Adams County native, as she did eight years ago, flipped Senate District 37 from Democratic to the GOP column on Tuesday, bringing one of three pick-ups for the Republicans that increased their margin in the legislature’s upper house to 36-16.

“This night has been nerve-wracking,” Sojourner said Tuesday. “It’s been a long 10 months, but I’m very excited. We had a great turnout across the district, and I’m excited about the opportunity to represent Southwest Mississippi.”

Sojourner succeeds Democrat Bob Dearing of Natchez, who retired this year. Sojourner defeated Dearing in 2011 before Dearing returned the favor in 2015.

She said she and her Democratic opponent, William Godfrey of Natchez, had met during last-minute campaigning Tuesday and wished each other luck.

“It’s nice to be on cordial terms,” Sojourner said. “We pledged to work together, no matter who won.”

She said the district and the state have real needs to be addressed in terms of health care, education and infrastructure, and she plans to hold listening sessions in each county in the district to get feedback on how her constituents want to see those issues addressed.

Incumbent lawmakers who faced challenges also did well, with Republican Reps. Sam Mims V and Vince Mangold helping the GOP to maintain its holding of 75 seats in the House, while Rep. Angela Cockerham appears to be the only independent legislator set to sit in the lower chamber in the next term.

“I thought we had a good turnout, and the voters thought I did a good enough job to send me back for another four years,” Mangold said. “I deeply appreciate their confidence, and I look forward to serving the people of District 53 for another four years.”

Mims said he felt honored to the people of his district.

“I am humbled by the support my family and I have received. I take the responsibility they have given me very seriously,” he said. “I’m ready to get back to work in Jackson continuing to move this state in the right direction.”

Cockerham also expressed appreciation.

“I am very grateful and blessed to serve another term,” she said. “I am overjoyed and ready to serve District 96 again. I’m grateful for all the prayers, love and support I received during this campaign. I’m ready to get back to work.”

Though she goes back to Jackson as an independent rather than a Democrat, she expects little change.

“I have always believed in looking out for the interests of my district and making decisions that are positive for the people I represent,” Cockerham said. “You have to have relationships with your colleagues to get things accomplished. Does that I mean I set aside my principles? No.”

Other local legislative races were unopposed. Sen. Tammy Witherspoon and Rep. Daryl Porter were uncontested after primary wins and Rep. Bill Pigott faced no opponent at all this year.  

The legislature will convene for a 120-day session at noon on Jan. 7.

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