The Pine Belt has traditionally kept Palazzo far enough ahead on Election Day to secure wins despite Coast votes. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday.

With 99% of the precincts reporting, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell will be in the June 28th Republican Primary Runoff in the 4th Congressional District with incumbent Congressman Steven Palazzo.

Roughly 41,000 voters turned out in the South Mississippi Republican Primary, lower than previous Midterm Elections. In 2018, nearly 43,000 voters turned out while in 2014 the 4th District saw over 107,000 in that primary election.  There was no top of ticket statewide or national draw to capture voters’ attention and drive turnout.

Current tabulations show these results:

  • Steven Palazzo (incumbent) – 32%
  • Mike Ezell – 25%
  • Clay Wagner – 22%
  • Brice Wiggins – 9%
  • Carl Boyanton – 6%
  • Raymond Brooks – 5%
  • Kidron Peterson – 1%

Third place finisher and political newcome Clay Wagner, a former bank executive with Hancock Whitney Bank, nearly edged out Ezell for the runoff spot but the Sheriff’s home county turned out big for him, sending him through to the next round.

It is the first time Congressman Palazzo has been forced into a runoff when he was running for re-election even with previous primary elections having multiple challengers in the field. This year, however, there were six challengers who nearly assured the prospect of a runoff.

Palazzo has traditionally been stronger in the Pine Belt and vulnerable on the Coast.  That again proved true but not by as wide of margins as the incumbent has enjoyed since he won his first race in 2010 over former Democrat Congressman Gene Taylor.

Preliminary vote totals show that Palazzo only won Jones County by 4 votes and Perry County by 22 votes.  Ezell finished with the close second.  Palazzo also won Wayne, Forrest and Lamar counties but not with comfortable margins.  Ezell took Greene County by nearly 13% over Palazzo.

In the lower 6 counties, it was a mixed bag for the candidates.  Palazzo won Pearl River, Stone, and George counties, and is up currently in Harrison County but only by a couple dozen votes.  Wagner easily won Hancock County by almost 11% over Palazzo and Ezell won Jackson County by almost 17% over Palazzo.

There is no question that losing precincts in the Pine Belt during the recent Congressional redistricting hurt Palazzo’s overall vote total.

Palazzo’s campaign team sent out a statement early on Tuesday noting that the Congressman was flying back to D.C. later that day to handle congressional business.  Late Tuesday following the announcement of the runoff, Palazzo’s team issued this statement from the Congressman and his campaign manager Justin Brazell:

“It’s an honor to serve south Mississippi, and it’s something I do not take for granted. I’m grateful for our supporters and volunteers who worked hard in this election and who will work hard to help us over the next three weeks. We now turn our attention to the run-off, and we will not be out-worked. We will continue talking to voters about what we’ve been able to accomplish and our plans for promoting policies to restore economic growth, secure our borders, and keep Americans safe,” said Congressman Steven Palazzo.

“Our case to primary voters in the run-off election will remain the same. We have a proven leader who stands up to the Radical Left in Washington and who’s the ranking Republican on the committee funding border wall construction. Steven Palazzo was instrumental in funding the border wall under President Trump, and once Republicans win a majority this fall, he will again be instrumental in getting that important work underway once more,” said Palazzo campaign manager Justin Brasell.

Congressman Palazzo’s campaign will continue highlighting his work to:

– Fight inflation by restoring American energy independence and cutting wasteful spending

– Eliminate burdensome regulations, making job creation easier 

– Fund military modernization to protect our national and homeland defense while supporting Mississippi’s key role in our security economy.

“We have helped thousands of families through direct work with the federal bureaucracy and hundreds of thousands of Mississippians by establishing policies and direct appropriations that improve the daily lives of our constituents.  I thank all of the voters for the faith they have put in me, and trust that they will support me again on June 28 so we can continue to fight the dangerous agenda of Congressional Democrats and take back a Republican majority,” Palazzo said.

The eventual Republican nominee will face former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree in the November General Election.