6 opponents hitting “No-Show Palazzo” over inattention to district, ethics problems
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
GULFPORT (CFP) — Mississippi U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo — under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations that he misused campaign funds and used his office to aid family members — will try to fight off a gaggle of challengers in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Palazzo’s race, in the 4th District — which includes the state’s southeast panhandle, including the Gulf Coast and Hattiesburg – is the only House race that is expected to have a competitive primary, although all four of the state’s House members are facing primary challengers.
There is no U.S. Senate race this year, and statewide officials aren’t up until 2023.
Polls in the Magnolia State are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Palazzo, running for his seventh term, is facing a field of Republican challengers that includes Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell; State Senator Brice Wiggins from Pascagoula; Clay Wagner, a banker from Bay St. Louis; and Carl Boyanton, a retried businessman from Diamondhead who challenged Palazzo in 2020.
If Palazzo doesn’t win a majority Tuesday, the top vote getter among his challengers will face him in a June 28 runoff.
Palazzo’s opponents are hammering him over a long-running ethics investigation and what they see as his inattention to the district, which has garnered him the nickname “No-Show Palazzo.”
Palazzo has run a low-profile campaign, skipping candidate forums with his opponents. He does have a significant trump card – the endorsement of Donald Trump himself.
A report from the Office of Congressional Ethics found that Palazzo had used campaign funds to pay himself and his now ex-wife $200,000, including the mortgage on a family home; used his office to help his brother; and used congressional staffers for errands and campaign work, which are not allowed under House rules.
The OCE turned the matter over to the House Ethics Committee, which has yet to resolve the case; Palazzo has denied any wrongdoing and claims the charges are politically motivated.
Mississippi Today also reported that Palazzo had used campaign funds to pay for meals at high-end restaurants, sporting events, golfing and gifts, which would also be a violation of House rules.
His campaign later said some of those expenditures were mistakenly paid for by the campaign and Palazzo had reimbursed at least some of the money.
The latest campaign disclosure reports show Palazzo’s challengers have collectively raised $1.5 million for their campaigns, with both Boyanton and Wagner making six-figure loans to stay competitive in the fundraising chase. Palazzo has raised $600,000.
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