Rep. Steven Palazzo forced into GOP runoff in ethics probe
U.S. House Representative Steven Palazzo, a Republican who has served Mississippi’s 4th congressional district since 2011, will fight to save his seat in a runoff later this month after failing to secure at least 50% of the vote in the Republican Party primary on Tuesday night.
“It’s an honor to serve South Mississippi, and it’s something I don’t take for granted,” the South Mississippi incumbent said in a statement Tuesday night. “…We now turn our attention to the second round, and we will not be exhausted. We will continue to tell voters about what we have been able to accomplish and our plans to promote policies to restore economic growth, secure our borders, and protect Americans.
With 97% of the vote as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, the southern Mississippi congressman had won the support of less than 32% of GOP primary voters, with the remaining vote split among five challengers, the Associated press reported.
Once all the votes are tallied, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell or Hancock County businessman Clay Wagner will become Palazzo’s opponent in the June 28, 2022 Republican primary runoff. Ezell was slightly ahead of Wagner at midnight. The ultimate GOP nominee will face former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, who won Tuesday’s Democratic primary, and the Libertarian Party nominee Alden Johnson in the general elections in November.
Palazzo ethics investigation underway
This week’s Republican primary marks the first time in his congressional career that Palazzo has had to defend his seat in a Republican primary runoff. Over the past year, he has fought charges of wrongdoing in an ongoing congressional ethics investigation.
In March 2021, a nonpartisan congressional ethics committee said he found “substantial evidence” that the embattled congressman may have repeatedly violated federal law, including embezzling campaign funds and using his office for campaign purposes and to do favors for a family member. He denies the allegations. Palazzo’s opponents, left and right, have also accused him of being absent from his neighborhood and chastised him for missing votes in Congress.
All of the GOP candidates ran on a conservative platform opposed to President Joe Biden’s domestic policy agenda.
On his websiteEzell touts his “40 years of law enforcement experience,” saying he “has a proven track record of standing up for and defending the men and women who protect our communities” and is “ready to take on the radical left and politicians who want to defund the police.
Ezell’s website also notes his dedication to former President Donald Trump’s policies, including his attempt to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
“A longtime supporter of President Trump, Mike Ezell understands the importance of putting America first,” the issues section says. “He will push for Trump-era policies that keep our nation strong, including ending our reliance on foreign oil and maintaining the best-trained and best-equipped military in the world.”
Wagner, like Palazzo and Ezell, also signals his support for Trump-era policies on his website, including on issues such as immigration and opposition to abortion rights.
“I want to see Mississippi prosper and be a place people are proud to call home,” Wanger’s website says. “I will lead with a conservative Christian foundation that will dictate my decision-making and I will utilize decades of business experience that will benefit generations of Mississippians.”
In his Tuesday evening statement, Palazzo said he would focus on “fighting inflation by restoring American energy independence and cutting wasteful spending”; “eliminate restrictive regulations, which facilitates job creation”; and “funding military modernization to protect our national defense while supporting Mississippi’s key role in our security economy.”
DuPree changed views on abortion
In Tuesday night’s Democratic primary, Johnny DuPree beat David Sellersa pastor of the United Methodist Church of Hattiesburg who ran on an openly liberal platform and as a supporter of abortion rights.
“Tonight, my run for Congress comes to an end,” Sellers said in a statement late Tuesday. “I congratulate Dr. Johnny DuPree on tonight’s victory, and he has my full support in the effort to give southern Mississippi someone who represents us all. … If I can convey anything to Mississippians, it’s that we need to demand more of candidates. We need to demand that they talk about real issues, not talking points. We must demand that they give clear answers to difficult questions. It’s the only way forward. »
In 2011, DuPree was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor, but he ran on a conservative platform that included support for personality amendment— an electoral initiative that would have banned all abortions from the moment of fertilization as well as certain methods of contraception and in vitro fertilization. DuPree lost that election even as state voters rejected the personality amendment 58%-42%.
At a forum of Democratic candidates on May 2, 2022, DuPree reversed his old stance on abortion, saying he now supports “a woman’s right and ability to control her reproductive life”. At this same hour, Politico announced the leak of a draft opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States showing that the court’s conservative majority intended to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and overturn Roe v. Wade.
In a quiz with the Mississippi Free Pressthe Libertarian candidate, Alden Johnson, said he did not “support the government attempting to legislate morality”.
“I would support any legislation to protect access to abortion,” he said. “I oppose any sanction for those who request abortions and for those who perform abortions. It’s none of my business, or the government’s.
All Republican primary candidates, including Palazzo, oppose abortion rights.
The general election takes place on November 8, 2022. Voters can vote for any candidate they choose in the general election, whether they voted in the party primaries or the party primary in which they voted.