Sometimes American politics is about ideas, powered by Jeffersons and Adamses and Reagans. Sometimes it is about strategy, with races determined by the chess-match machinations of Axelrods and Roves. But every once in a while, the fate of governments is determined by a considerably less eminent character, one usually found lurking in back-alley craps games and on the Vegas strip: Lady Luck. In Mississippi on Friday, luck smiled on a Democratic state representative, Blaine Eaton II, who had been forced, by state law, to draw straws for his seat after his race for re-election ended in a tie. On Friday afternoon, in a short, strange ceremony here presided over by Gov. Phil Bryant and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Mr. Eaton and his Republican challenger, Mark Tullos, each removed a silver box from a bag. Mr. Eaton opened his box to reveal a long green straw. And with that, a mathematically improbable tie for the House District 79 seat — each candidate had received exactly 4,589 votes — had been broken, though not by the voters.
… Resorting to a game of chance to break an electoral tie is common in many states, and coin tosses are often used to settle smaller local races. But in few instances had the pot been as rich as this: If Mr. Tullos had won, his fellow Republicans would have gained a three-fifths supermajority in the State House of Representatives, the threshold required to pass revenue-related bills.
At stake, potentially, was hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. The three-fifths requirement has allowed the Democratic minority to block Republican tax-cut proposals in the past on the grounds that Mississippi needs the revenue to finance schools and other services. Republicans, who also control the State Senate and governor’s mansion, say the cuts, including a proposal to phase out the state’s corporate franchise tax, will jump-start the economy and promote job growth.