- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A new Mississippi lawmaker will take office without the formality of an election.

Republican Jay Mathis of Carthage was the only candidate who signed up to run for a seat vacated by longtime Democratic Rep. Bennett Malone. Because of that, the state Board of Election Commissioners last week canceled a May 5 special election and declared Mathis the winner.

A swearing-in date for Mathis has not been set, House spokeswoman Meg Annison said Tuesday.

Mathis, 44, runs a convenience store and a small finance company. He will serve the final months of a four-year term that Malone started in District 45, in parts of Leake, Neshoba, Rankin and Scott counties.

“I’m certainly very grateful for the opportunity to serve,” Mathis said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to getting in there.”

He will get to vote on legislation only if Gov. Phil Bryant calls a special session sometime before January, because lawmakers have finished their three-month regular session. Bryant said last week that he would call a special session only if there’s an economic development project that requires lawmakers to approve incentives or if there’s a need to respond to a natural disaster.

Malone had served in the House since 1980 and was a past chairman of the House Corrections Committee. He has had health problems the past several months and missed most of the 2015 legislative session before he resigned in early March.

Republicans already hold a majority in the House, so Mathis’ swearing in will not change the partisan balance of power.

All 122 state House seats and 52 state Senate seats are on the ballot during this November’s regular election, and candidates’ qualifying deadline was Feb. 27. Mathis said he chose not to seek a four-year term in the House because legislative districts have been redrawn, and the new districts are being used for the first time during this year’s regular election. He said earlier this month that his home is District 48 under the new lines and “it just didn’t seem advantageous” to run.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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