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2 Mississippi Republican U.S. House members forced into runoffs after weak primary showings

Michael Guest narrowly trails challenger in 3rd District; Steven Palazzo clears just 32% in 4th District

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

MississippiJACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) – Two sitting Republican Mississippi U.S. House members have been forced into primary runoffs after weak primary performances and will now have to battle to keep their seats on June 28.

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U.S. Reps. Michael Guest and Steven Palazzo, R-Mississippi

In the 3rd District, U.S. Rep. Michael Guest — one of just 35 Republican House members to vote in favor of an independent bipartisan investigation of the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol – trails Michael Cassidy, a Navy aviator making his first run for political office.

Cassidy’s margin over Guest was less than 600 votes, with neither winning the majority needed to avoid a runoff due to a third candidate in the race.

In the 4th District, 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 – drew an anemic 32% in his re-election bid against a field of six challengers.

He will face a runoff with Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell, who came in second about 1,500 votes ahead of Clay Wagner, a banker from Bay St. Louis.

The state’s other two U.S. House members, Republican Trent Kelley is the 1st District and Democrat Bennie Thompson in the 2nd District, easily turned back primary challenges.

Guest’s campaign faced headwinds over his over his vote on the January 6th independent commission, even though he later voted against the current House investigation led by Democrats.

Cassidy billed himself as the “America First” candidate, echoing Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of voting fraud in the 2020 election. However, Trump did not endorse in the race; he had endorsed Guest in 2020.

The 3rd District stretches across central Mississippi from the Jackson suburbs to Meridian.

Palazzo’s opponents in the 4th District hammered 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.”

He ran a low-profile campaign, skipping candidate forums with his opponents. But he did have Trump’s endorsement.

Ezell, who touted his 40-year law enforcement career on the campaign trail, has served as sheriff in Jackson County on the Gulf Coast since 2014 and was re-elected without opposition in 2019.

The 4th District includes the state’s southeast panhandle, including the cities of Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula and Hattiesburg.

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Mississippi Republican U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo facing Tuesday primary fight amid ethics investigation

6 opponents hitting “No-Show Palazzo” over inattention to district, ethics problems

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

MississippiGULFPORT (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.

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U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Mississippi

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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Primary Wrap: Kemp, Raffensperger survive Trump’s ire; Brooks makes Alabama U.S. Senate runoff

Texas Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar survives challenge from the left; George P. Bush gets blown out by Attorney General Ken Paxton

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

Decision 2022(CFP) — Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have both survived Donald Trump’s crusade to drive them into political oblivion, winning renomination in Tuesday’s primary election.

Meanwhile, in Alabama, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks – whom Trump initially endorsed but then unendorsed – made a runoff for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, where he will face off against Katie Britt, a former top aide to retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.

Trump had better luck in Arkansas, where his former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders won the Republican nomination for governor, and in the Georgia U.S. Senate race, where NFL football great Herschel Walker, who ran at Trump’s encouragement, easily won the Republican nomination to face Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock in the fall.

In Texas, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the last pro-life Democrat left in the U.S. House, appears to have narrowly won his primary runoff over Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney who ran against him with support of major figures in the Democratic left.

With all of the precincts reporting, Cuellar had a 175-vote lead. He has declared victory, but Cisnersos is refusinng to concede.

The Bush family’s political dynasty also came to at least a temporary end Tuesday, as George P. Bush was badly beaten in a Republican primary runoff by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who won despite facing criminal charges and an active FBI investigation.

And in a Democratic primary between two U.S. House incumbents in Georgia. Lucy McBath easily dispatched colleague Carolyn Bourdeaux, who will leave Congress after a single term.

Republican legislators triggered the primary fight when they dismembered McBath’s former district in Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, prompting her to run against Bourdeaux in a district centered in Gwinnett County.

Both Kemp and Raffensperger ran afoul of Trump by refusing to go along with his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the Peach State in 2020.

Trump persuaded former U.S. Senator David Perdue to make the race against Kemp and pumped more than $2 million from his own campaign operation into the race. During the campaign, Perdue echoed Trump’s debunked claims about election fraud, and Trump campaigned on his behalf.

But Perdue’s campaign never caught fire, and, in the end, Kemp crushed him by 52 points.

Raffensperger, who as secretary of state oversaw the 2020 election, had a more difficult time, coming in at 53%. But that was enough to avoid a runoff against Trump’s endorsed candidate, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, came in second at 33%.

The results in Alabama will present a predicament for Trump, who must now decide whether to sit out the race, wade into the race on behalf of Britt — who had strong ties to the Republican establishment he frequently castigates — or re-endorse Brooks.

Brooks was one of Trump’s strongest supporters in the House and led the charge against accepting the 2020 election results. But Trump withdrew his endorsement after Brooks urged Republicans to move on from 2020.

Given up for dead at that point, he surged in the last weeks of the race as the third-place candidate, Mike Durant, faded. But he’ll have to make up a 100,000-vote gap to defeat Britt in the June 21 runoff.

Cuellar narrowly kept his seat by defeating Cisneros, who made his opposition to legal abortion a centerpiece of her campaign, particularly after leak of a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade.

The House Democratic leadership stood behind Cuellar, despite intense pressure in the days before the primary from advocates of legal abortion.

His next battle will be to keep his seat in the fall against Republican Cassy Garcia, a former aide to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. The Texas legislature made the district more Republican during redistricting, putting the seat on the list of GOP targets.

Bush, the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, had served two terms as land commissioner before launching his run against Paxton, who is facing criminal charges for insider trading and is being investigated for bribery by the FBI, a probe started by allegations from his own subordinates.

Trump endorsed Paxton, although Bush, unlike some other members of his family, has embraced the former president. But in the end, he was crushed 2-to-1 by Paxton.

Perhaps the surprise of the night came in Alabama, where Republican Governor Kay Ivey — who consistently polls as one of the nation’s most popular governors — was kept to just 54% in a race where she was expected to roll to victory.

Lindy Blanchard, a former Trump ambassador who reportedly left the Senate race at his urging to run for governor, came in second at 19%.

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U.S. House’s last pro-life Democrat, Texas’s Henry Cuellar, fighting to keep seat in Tuesday primary runoff

Challenger Jessica Cisneros wanted House Democratic leaders to rescind Cuellar endorsement; they refused

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TexasLAREDO, Texas (CFP) — Amid the newly charged struggle over legal abortion in the United States, the last pro-life Democrat left in the House, Texas U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, will be fighting for his political life Tuesday in a Democratic primary runoff.

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U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and Democratic primary challenger Jessica Cisneros

Cuellar is seeking his ninth term in the House against Jessica Cisneros, who is running against him from the left in South Texas’s 28th District with the support of such luminaries of the Democratic left as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But Cuellar has the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chamber’s senior Democratic leadership, who rebuffed Cisneros’s demands to rescind their endorsements after the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision indicating that the court is prepared to scuttle Roe vs. Wade, the 1972 decision that made abortion legal in the United States.

Cuellar has long opposed legal abortion and was the only Democrat to vote against a bill to codify Roe vs. Wade’s protections into federal law, which passed the House but failed in the Senate.

Cuellar has also been battling negative headlines after FBI agents searched his home and office in January as part of a probe related to Azerbaijan. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

In the first round of voting in March, Cuellar defeated Cisneros by 1,000 votes but failed to get the majority he needed to avoid a runoff due to a third candidate in the race.

The district stretches from the suburbs of San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley and includes Laredo, where Cuellar has been a political powerhouse for decades.

In the March primary, Cisneros won the northern part of the district near San Antonio, but Cuellar rolled up large enough margins in rural areas further south to overtake her.

Cisneros, 28, an immigration attorney, challenged Cuellar in 2020 and came within 1,800 votes of unseating him. This time around, she has raised $4.4 million for the race, buoyed by support from groups supporting legal abortion. Cuellar has raised just $3 million, according to the latest Federal Elections Commission reports.

Republicans in the Texas legislature made the district more Republican during redistricting and are expected to make a run at flipping the seat this fall.

The Republican runoff features Cassy Garcia, a former aide to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, facing off against Sandra Whitten, a church leader and wife of a Border Patrol agent who was the GOP nominee for the seat in 2020.

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Tuesday’s Southern primaries will test Donald Trump’s continuing grip on Republican Party

Trump’s effort to get rid of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp likely to go up in flames, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes step toward Arkansas governor’s mansion

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

Decision 2022(CFP) — Donald Trump’s continuing grip on the Republican Party will be front and center in Tuesday’s Southern primaries, as GOP voters in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas decide whether to punish some of Trump’s top nemeses and support candidates he anointed.

trump southern primariesTrump appears likely to fail in his quest to defeat Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who angered him by refusing entreaties to overturn his 2020 election loss in the Peach State.

And in Alabama, the U.S. Senate candidate he endorsed and then unendorsed, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, has risen from the dead and may snag a spot in the runoff, which could create a tricky predicament for the former president.

Meanwhile, Trump’s former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is expected to be nominated for Arkansas governor Tuesday, and Herschel Walker, whom Trump recruited, is expected to win the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Georgia.

Also, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led the legal charge to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss, is in a tight primary runoff with Bush family scion George P. Bush, son of Trump nemesis Jeb Bush. Trump endorsed Paxton, who is seeking a third term while facing criminal charges and an FBI investigation.

Here is a look at the key Trump-involved races on Tuesday’s ballots:

Georgia

Polls show Kemp will likely crush former U.S. Senator David Perdue, who was encouraged to challenge Kemp by Trump in his quest to take down the governor.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who likewise earned Trump’s wrath by refusing to intervene in the 2020 election, also faces a Trump-backed challenger, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, in his quest for a second term. With four candidates in the race, a runoff is likely, which would give Trump an additional venue to try to take down Raffensperger.

In the U.S. Senate race, Walker – whom Trump encouraged to run and endorsed – appears likely to win the GOP primary, despite questions about his thin political resume and past personal behavior.

To the frustration of his Republican primary opponents, Walker has run a stealth campaign, skipping primary debates, avoiding the media, and making a few carefully crafted public appearances. While that lack of exposure seems to have served him well in the primary, the question will be whether it will work in the fall against Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, who possesses significant political skills.

Alabama

Trump initially endorsed Brooks, one of his strongest supporters in the House who led the charge in disputing the 2020 election results. But after Brooks’s poll numbers sank and he urged Republicans to move on from 2020, Trump pulled the endorsement, which was seen at the time as the death knell for Brooks.

However, recent polling indicates a surge of support for Brooks, mostly at the expense of political newcomer Mike Durant, which could propel him into the June 21 runoff against Katie Britt, a former top aide to retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.

Both Britt and Durant have been angling for Trump’s endorsement, to no avail. A Britt-vs-Brooks runoff would put him in the awkward position of either re-endorsing Brooks or supporting Britt, who is backed by Republican establishment figures of whom Trump has been critical. Or he could stay out of the race.

Republican Governor Kay Ivey is facing a gaggle of primary challengers, including Lindy Blanchard, a former Trump ambassador whom he reportedly encouraged to leave the Senate race challenge Ivey. Trump was reportedly miffed at the governor over cancellation of one of his rallies at a state park in Mobile, even though she did not make the decision.

However, Trump has not directly endorsed Blanchard, and Ivey – who consistently polls as one of the nation’s most popular governors – is expected to easily see off her primary foes.

Arkansas

Sanders is expected to win the governor’s primary after bigfooting both Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge out of the race. Neither could get any political oxygen after Trump went all in for Sanders and are now running instead for each other’s current offices.

Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman is facing three primary challengers, including Jake Bequette, a former Arkansas Razorbacks star and NFL player who has criticized Boozman as insufficiently supportive of the MAGA agenda. However, Trump endorsed Boozman, who has been highlighting the endorsement in his advertising.

Texas

In Texas, the Republican primary for attorney general has become a contentious battle between Paxton and Bush, pitting Trump’s endorsed champion against the state’s most famous and successful political family.

Unlike other members of his family, George P. Bush has embraced Trump and has been hitting Paxton on his sea of legal troubles – he’s facing criminal charges for insider trading and is being investigated for bribery by the FBI, a probe started by allegations from his own subordinates.

Still, it is worth remembering that Paxton won re-election in 2018 while facing those same criminal charges – and the Bush name may not have the magic it once did among conservatives in the Lone Star State.

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