Incumbent GOP Rep. Palazzo defeated in Mississippi primary run-off election amid allegations of scandal

An incumbent Republican congressman from Mississippi who became embroiled in a campaign finance scandal found himself locked in a run-off election after he failed to win a majority to secure an outright victory in the state’s primary election.

Unfortunately for Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), he was just defeated in that run-off election by Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell, who is now the GOP nominee for Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District in November’s general election, the Washington Examiner reported.

Palazzo had earned a plurality of votes in the primary but not a required majority for victory, prompting a run-off against second-place Ezell. All of the other candidates in that crowded field had endorsed and supported Ezell in the run-off, however, which helped the sheriff oust the scandal-plagued incumbent from office.

Scandalous accusations of misuse of funds, abuse of position

According to a March 2021 referral, the Office of Congressional Ethics reported that it had determined following an investigation that there was “substantial reason” to believe that Rep. Palazzo was guilty of several allegations of wrongdoing lodged against him.

That included allegations that Palazzo’s campaign had made illegitimate expenditures, that Palazzo had converted campaign funds for personal use, that he had improperly spent his taxpayer-funded congressional allowance on personal or campaign expenses, and that he had used his position to provide “special favors” for his brother.

Given that there was “substantial reason” to believe all of those allegations were true, the office referred the matter to the House Committee on Ethics and recommended further investigation.

“America First” sheriff defeats incumbent congressman

Roll Call reported that just a few hours after polls closed Tuesday night, with around 84 percent of the vote counted, the run-off race was called in favor of Sheriff Ezell over Rep. Palazzo by a margin of 53-47 percent of the vote.

In the primary election just three weeks earlier, Palazzo had garnered 32 percent of the vote compared to Ezell’s 25 percent. The support of the other primary candidates for Ezell — all were focused solely on defeating Palazzo — clearly paid dividends for the “America First” sheriff.

Roll Call noted that Ezell ran on a campaign that was explicitly pro-law enforcement, pro-gun rights, pro-border wall, and “100 percent” pro-life.

Interestingly enough, the outlet noted that this run-off election forced Palazzo to actually increase his interactions with constituents and engage in a primary debate for the first time ever since he had been first elected to Congress in 2010.

Allegations remain under investigation

As for the scandalous allegations against Rep. Palazzo, Roll Call reported that they had first emerged after the congressman’s 2019 primary opponent had hired a private investigator to look into apparent campaign finance irregularities, and a report prepared by the PI was then routed to the ethics office by way of a nonprofit watchdog group.

The outlet noted that the House Ethics Committee continues to probe the allegations that Palazzo spent campaign funds on personal expenses, had his staff perform campaign and personal work for him, and used his position in Congress to boost his brother’s career in the U.S. Navy.

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