Palazzo did not attend the Tuesday event. It was the second such candidate forum in South Mississippi in recent weeks ahead of the June Primary.

Six of the seven Republican candidates vying for the 4th Congressional District participated in a forum hosted by the Jackson and Harrison County Republican Executive Committees on Tuesday evening in Ocean Springs.

Absent from the event was incumbent Congressman Steven Palazzo who, based on his Facebook posts, was in North Mississippi visiting with his son at Mississippi State and touring a General Atomics plant.

This is the second such candidate forum in South Mississippi in the last few weeks as the June 7th Republican Primary election nears. The other was held in Harrison County. Palazzo did not attend that gathering either.

The six Republican challengers to Palazzo that have all attended the candidate question and answer sessions are:

  • Raymond Brooks
  • Carl Boyanton
  • Sheriff Mike Ezell
  • Kidron Peterson
  • Clay Wagner
  • State Senator Brice Wiggins

It is not uncommon for incumbents to decide not to attend candidate forums such as these, choosing instead to stay on the campaign trail, maintain their official schedule, and be on the job as the current officeholder.  Traditionally, very few swing voters attend these events when there is a crowded field, meaning most attendees are already committed to one of the candidates.

Should there be a runoff, narrowing the field, that is normally when an incumbent would engage directly with a challenger, perhaps even in a debate during the weeks ahead of the runoff election.

The odds of a runoff in the 4th Congressional District race appear to be above average given the number of candidates in the Republican Primary coupled with recent campaign finance reports.

When drilling down in the campaign finance numbers and assessing the buy-in from voters, if a runoff is in the making it is likely to be between either Palazzo and Jackson County Sheriff Ezell or Palazzo and State Senator Wiggins. Wagner could also make a play down the stretch. Boyanton, Brooks and Peterson remain long shots.

READ MORE: First quarter Congressional midterm campaign finance reports tell the story ahead of the June Primary

Palazzo has dispensed with a crowded GOP primary field in the past, avoiding a runoff each time. Whether or not he can do it again remains to be seen.

During the candidate forum on Tuesday, each of the Republicans offered their thoughts on a variety of issues ranging from the economy, national debt, military funding, border security, job creation, and more.

Candidates took jabs at Palazzo, both directly and indirectly.  More than one challenger called attention to the incumbent Congressman being labeled “No Show Palazzo” in the district and in D.C. where he has used proxy voting.  Palazzo’s ongoing inquiry before the House Ethics Committee regarding use of campaign funds was mentioned as well as a means to call him “corrupt.”

You can watch the full 4th District Republican candidate forum from Tuesday below.