MAGEE, Miss. (AP) – Congressional primary runoff with incumbents is rare in Mississippi. This year, two of the state’s Republican representatives are fighting to keep their jobs in drain against challengers from their own party.
U.S. Representative Steven Palazzo is seeking a seventh term and was considered vulnerable after being charged in a 2021 congressional ethics report for abusing his office by using campaign funds incorrectly.
The American rep. Michael Guest is seeking a third term. He voted to set up an independent commission to investigate the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and was forced to resign due to criticism that he was disloyal to former President Donald Trump.
Both Palazzo and Guest failed to cross the 50% threshold to win directly in their June 7 primary election. On Tuesday, Palazzo will face Mike Ezell, the sheriff of a coastal tribe, while Guest will face Michael Cassidy, a former naval fighter pilot.
The Associated Press examined state records dating back to 1952 and found that no U.S. representative from Mississippi has been in a party primary settlement during the 70 years.
Mississippi’s two other members of Congress, Democrat Bennie Thompson and Republican Trent Kelly, easily won their primary this month.
Guest represents Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Jackson and its suburbs that include the area where Guest was a district attorney before he was elected to Congress. The district also has small towns, poultry processing plants and military installations, including one where Cassidy still trains pilots.
Guest received 47.5% to Cassidys 47% on June 7 in a race with three candidates. Guest and Cassidy campaigned separately last week in the small town of Magee, in a county where Guest fared slightly better than Cassidy in the first round of voting.
Guest calls his challenger a “carpet digger” because Cassidy moved to Mississippi from the East Coast and first registered to vote here in 2021. Cassidy acknowledges the time of his registration and says he remained a voter in one state while being transferred to others .
Cassidy accuses Guest of betraying Trump by joining Democrats and 34 other Republicans in supporting the creation of a two-part commission for the January 6 attack.
Weeks after that proposal failed in the U.S. Senate, Guest was among 190 Republicans who opposed the creation of the House Committee, which has spent months investigating the uprising and recently launched television hearings. He and Palazzo were among the Republicans in the House who objected to confirming election results from some states that went after Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
Cassidy says in campaign speeches that Guest has done nothing to stop “the persecution of political prisoners on January 6.” During a dinner at Jose’s Restaurant & Grill in Magee, Cassidy criticized the commission Guest voted to support.
“It said … in the bill that everyone who was up there that day was a domestic terrorist,” Cassidy said.
Guest rejects any notion that he has been disloyal to Trump.
“They do not want to talk about our 95% voting record with Donald Trump, that we co-chaired his Mississippi re-election campaign, that we voted against the federal lawsuit twice and actually spoke on the floor in opposition to it,” Guest told a lunch crowd next day a mile away at Zip’s Cafe.
The winner of the round between Guest and Cassidy will face Shuwaski Young in November. Young served in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during Barack Obama’s presidency.
The Palazzo represents the 4th Congress District of Southeast Mississippi, which includes the cities of Biloxi and Hattiesburg. The district’s economy is heavily dependent on the military and shipbuilding.
Palazzo served in the Marine Corps and Mississippi Army National Guard. He was in the state legislature before deposing a longtime Democratic congressman in the 2010 tea party wave.
In 2021, a report by the Office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” that Palazzo abused his office by spending money on campaigns, serving his brother, and recruiting staff for political and personal affairs. His then-spokeswoman Colleen Kennedy said the investigation was based on politically motivated “false allegations.”
In the primary election, Palazzo got 31.5% of the vote to Ezell’s 25% in a race with seven candidates.
Ezell has said that the Palazzo is ineffective at representing southern Mississippi, and he has criticized the Palazzo for voting by proxy – the practice of not appearing in person to vote in Parliament but having another member vote in his place.
In November, the winner of the bypass between Palazzo and Ezell will meet Democrat Johnny L. DuPree, a former Hattiesburg mayor who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2011, and Libertarian Alden Patrick Johnson.
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