Elections

Scandal-Plagued Rep. Steven Palazzo Loses Primary Run-Off To County Sheriff

Screenshot via YouTube/Congressman Palazzo

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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Republican Mississippi Rep. Steven Palazzo lost his primary runoff Tuesday to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell.

With more than 95% of votes counted, Ezell held 53.6% support, and Palazzo garnered 46.4%. A six-term representative, Palazzo is the sixth sitting incumbent to lose to a primary opponent in 2022. (RELATED: Madison Cawthorn Concedes Primary Against GOP State Sen. Chuck Edwards)

Several elections analysts called the race at about 9:30 p.m. Eastern time. Palazzo received 31.6% in the initial primary, while Ezell held 25%.

The Office of Congressional Ethics announced in 2021 that it found “substantial evidence to believe” that Palazzo misused campaign funds and did improper favors for his brother. Palazzo inappropriately paid an accounting firm owned by his now-ex-wife more than $143,000 in campaign cash since entering Congress, the OCE report found. In addition, Palazzo reportedly ordered staffers to help his brother Kyle reenlist in the Navy, an alleged violation of rules prohibiting members from using staff for personal favors.

Palazzo has repeatedly denied the allegations, although the House Ethics Committee is still investigating.

In addition, Ezell criticized Palazzo for a lack of appearances in the district, as well as his extensive use of proxy voting. Although Palazzo initially signed onto a lawsuit attempting to prohibit the procedure, he asked colleagues to cast votes on his behalf 66 times in 2021.

Local and national Republicans spent heavily on Palazzo and Rep. Michael Guest, who defeated a primary challenger in a Tuesday run-off. Palazzo spent nearly $800,000 during the election cycle, and fellow Republican Mississippi Rep. Trent Kelly held “emergency” fundraisers for the two.

Palazzo was one of three incumbents to lose primaries on Tuesday night, alongside Republican Rep. Rodney Davis and Democratic Rep. Marie Newman, both of Illinois.

Ezell, who was first elected Jackson County sheriff in 2014, will face off against Democrat Johnny DuPree in November’s general election. Mississippi’s 4th District leans 42 points towards the GOP, according to FiveThirtyEight.