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All four of Mississippi’s incumbent Congressmen are favored to win their reelection bids next month. Freshman Trent Kelly (R), along with his tenured colleagues Bennie Thompson (D) and Gregg Harper (R), face very little, if any, organized opposition, something we have come to expect in MS01, MS02 and MS03. The only seat that continues to send up smoke signals is MS04.

However, this may be Palazzo’s least tense election night to date, after escaping credible challengers in the Republican primary. And while conventional wisdom assumes U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R) will cruise to reelection, it is worth noting the continued tension within South Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District.

Even though Palazzo has defended challenges in three successive elections from both his left and right flanks, he has seemingly yet to endear himself in a way to voters that scares off challengers for the long haul.

Libertarian Ric McCluskey and Democrat Mark Gladney are seeking to take advantage of that tenuous relationship. Yes, there is a fourth candidate qualified for the MS04 seat - Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara - but given his long electoral track record his having any significant impact on the election or its dialogue is nil.

Y’all Politics sent interview questions to Palazzo (R), McCluskey (L), and Gladney (D) to assess their views of the campaign leading up to the November 8 election. Gladney did not respond.

Below are excerpts from the candidates’ responses:

What are your top 3 issues/concerns in the campaign?


“Our national security, our national debt and our economy.

“National security continues to be my top concern. The number one constitutional responsibility of Congress is the common defense of our nation at home and abroad. Unfortunately, under the Obama Administration, our friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us. We must continue to fully support the missions of our military and ensure the men and women in uniform have the tools and resources they need to do their job. South Mississippi plays a crucial role in those efforts.

“My second major concern is our growing national debt. With a $19 trillion debt, it doesn’t take a CPA to tell you that we need serious spending cuts. Since I came to Congress in 2010, we have reduced discretionary spending every single year, the first time this has happened since the Korean War. We’re cutting to the bone, but we need to start talking about tackling the true driver of our deficits and debt: mandatory spending. Mandatory spending makes up 71% of all federal spending, and it never gets a vote in Congress. This portion of the federal budget continues to grow every year and is on autopilot. In order to get our country’s debt headed in the right direction, it’s imperative that we reform these mandatory programs.

“And last but certainly not least, our economic well-being remains a major priority of mine. Get government out of the way and cut red tape. Grow the economy. Balance the budget. It sounds simple, but we need a willing Senate and president to fight with the House to achieve these priorities.”


“Economy - We have to reign in our spending. We have endured the most destructive administration in American history with the Obama Admin. However, the blame for our financial woes does not just fall on them. Republicans have controlled congress for 18 of the last 22 years. In that time period, the national debt has grown from $4 trillion to $20 trillion. It's time for fiscal responsibility.

“Constitutional governance - For the better part of the century, the Federal Government has went outside their Constitutional boundary. The result has been a bloated bureaucracy that rarely achieves results and has wasted an exorbitant amount of money. My goal is to scale the Federal Government back within Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.

“Foreign Policy - We have to concentrate on addressing the failures of our foreign policy. We have constantly empowered our enemies by our failed intervention attempts. Benghazi and Iraq are perfect examples. The preferred approach is to concentrate the efforts of our men and women in uniform on protecting American soil. This will save an incredible amount of money while also providing us with the most effective method for surgically removing Islamic Fundamentalism from humanity.”

What would you do different from your challengers? On what issues do you disagree?


“I am results-oriented conservative with a proven record. By any measure, I am the most conservative member of the Mississippi delegation and one of the most conservative in all of Congress. At the same time, I recognize that to get things done for your constituents, you have to work with others. I have fought as a conservative for my constituents over the last six years and believe we have achieved some significant results for South Mississippi.”


“First and foremost, my actions would be congruent with my message on the campaign trail. When I say that I will fight for fiscal responsibility and against Federal overreach, I would actually do it. I would also give the people what they deserve which is constant opportunities to address me and my votes. I will never vote to approve massive budgets that fund programs that I renounce on the campaign trail yet breathe life into such as Planned Parenthood. Steven Palazzo has done just that.”

What are you hearing on the campaign trial as to the concerns of the people in the 4th District?


”I am blessed to serve the people of South Mississippi, and travel across the district to hear from my constituents during every district work period. From the coast to the Pine Belt, people are frustrated with government. They want to be left alone and they want government to work. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has done neither. We need a Republican president to work with a Republican Congress to get our country moving in the right direction again.”


“Accountability, integrity, accurate representation, competency and limited government. They feel that our current representation provides none of the above.”

What do you see as your chances of victory? Where would you say you are strongest (i.e. Coast, PineBelt, etc.)?


“I serve at the pleasure of the people of the Fourth Congressional District and each election I work my hardest to earn their votes in all fourteen counties in our district. I’m running on my record of service to my constituents and believe we have achieved some significant results for the people of Mississippi. My goal has been and continues to be to fight day in and day out for conservative principles and the people of South Mississippi.”


“Challenging an incumbent is always hard. They have the luxury of name recognition and the benefit of hiding behind the insulation of incumbency. I have been fortunate to receive exposure that most third party candidates do not receive. I am also blessed that the people of the 4th CD and even across America have grown weary of the failures, incompetency, and double speak of the two major parties. We have received tremendous support throughout the Pine Belt and down to the Coast. I frequently speak to Conservative Coalitions and many other groups who are ready for new leadership. “

Do you support your party's nominee for president? Why or why not?


“Absolutely. I was one of the first Members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for President and am his Chairman for Veterans here in Mississippi. There is no other way to put this: a vote for anyone else besides Donald Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton, and Hillary Clinton must not become our next president.”


“As someone who believes in a limited Federal Government and the Founders intent of the presidency being limited, I choose to concentrate on state and local races. The people will vote for who they choose to for president but I encourage them to put just as much if not more effort and passion into races that affect them even more which exist here in Mississippi.”

In addition, McCluskey, as the challenger, was also asked why he was running for Congress:


“I was urged to run for Congress to offer the people of the 4th CD a true limited government alternative to Congressman Palazzo and the Democratic candidate. We are aware that the incumbent constantly fails to stand up to the overreach of the Federal Government. He also refuses to be accountable for his votes by standing in front of the people and answering the hard questions. This is seen by the fact that he has still yet to respond to multiple invitations to two debates hosted at the Hattiesburg and Gulf Coast campuses by USM.”

Palazzo was also asked, as the incumbent, to list what he considered as a few accomplishments during his three terms in office:


“From my first day in office, I have fought for the people of South Mississippi. I strongly believe you can hold true to your conservative principles while also getting things accomplished for your constituents. That’s what I’ve sought to do.

“When the BP oil spill devastated the Gulf Coast and the federal government was set to take all of the fine money paid, we went to work to make sure the vast majority of the fines came back to the Gulf Coast. The RESTORE Act will ensure we receive our fair share – hundreds of millions of dollars.

“When the Air Force tried to take away our C130Js at Keesler, we went to work and for three years questioned their every move. Last year, one of my proudest accomplishments was when the Air Force permanently reversed their decision. The planes are staying, hundreds of jobs are coming back, and we are picking up new missions at Keesler.

“When flood insurance rates started to skyrocket in 2013, we went to work and fought to hold rates down so flood insurance could remain affordable and available on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It took a tremendous effort because there are a lot of people in Congress, even in my own party, who want to see flood rates become actuarially sound overnight. But, we were successful in capping rate increases so people could remain in their homes.

“You don’t get things done in Congress by screaming the loudest. You get things done by working hard and doing the right thing every day. This mindset gave me the opportunity to become a subcommittee chairman as a freshman, which is extremely rare in Congress. Last year I was appointed to the most powerful committee in Congress, the Appropriations Committee, and am the first South Mississippi representative on this committee in 100 years. There is no better place to cut wasteful government spending while ensuring Mississippi’s priorities are taken care of."

Posted October 10, 2016 - 2:12 pm

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