There is an incredible lack of energy in Mississippi’s 4th District Congressional primary. You’d think that a grudge match like Palazzo vs. Taylor would have attracted some real fireworks, but so far the race has been devoid of any energy or national interest whatsoever. There’s been almost no earned media in this race outside or even inside the district.
Many pundits originally thought that two term Congressman Steven Palazzo was facing a similar challenge in this year’s Republican primary as he did in the 2010 general election when he first won the 4th Congressional District seat.
But those pundits obviously don’t know Coast politics.
Since 2010, the rumors of a Taylor comeback have swirled in the lower six counties with his supporters encouraging a run in 2012 and 2014.
Taylor entered this year’s race in the final days of qualifying, switching parties, not out of conviction but out of political expediency realizing he could not get elected as a Democrat in the current political environment within the 4th District.
Entrenched Coast Republicans understand this and are showing no signs of embracing Taylor in the Republican primary.
Palazzo’s Gulfport and Ocean Springs fundraisers are a prime example of this point. They feature a who’s who list of local Coast Republican officials, not to mention well known GOP rising stars in House Whip Congressman Kevin McCarthy and Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne. This is on top of endorsements from Bryant, Reeves, Pickering, Hyde-Smith, Chaney, Cochran, Gunn, Harper, and Nunnelee.
Four of the five county supervisors in both Harrison and Jackson counties are listed with Palazzo, as are the mayors of Gulfport and Long Beach.
Nine state representatives (Barton, Bennett, Busby, Delano, Eure, Guice, Haney, McLeod, and Zuber) and two state senators (Moran and Tindall) are featured on Palazzo’s fundraiser announcements. These officials mainly represent the Harrison and Jackson County areas where the events are being held.
Notably absent from the fundraiser list are two Jackson County state senators – Brice Wiggins and Michael Watson. Wiggins is a former Taylor staffer while Watson has taken to the campaign trail as a top lieutenant on state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s quest for the U.S. Senate. Watson has been rumored to covet the 4th Congressional District seat and has been mentioned a number of times as a future contender. This would especially be true if McDaniel wins. Palazzo, along with most of the rest of the elected Mississippi Republicans in state and federal government, has endorsed McDaniel’s opponent, Sen. Thad Cochran.
Palazzo has also been able to maintain Coast GOP donors and pad his campaign account quite nicely, raking in over three times that of Taylor. Republican voters at this point don’t seem enamored with Taylor’s switch making Palazzo, at this point, still the prohibitive favorite in the 4th District primary.
Oh, Taylor has his following, but he’s never run in a Republican primary. To anyone’s knowledge, he’s never even voted in a Republican primary. His switch infuriated what Democratic base he had and the Republicans who kept him in office by crossing over through the years have for the most part left him in the dust.
Gene Taylor has received no official endorsements from Coast Republican officials (or Democratic officials) nor are any expected in the coming weeks. The best Taylor has been able to do for his recent fundraiser, also in Ocean Springs, is to garner a few old friends who have always straddled the fence with him.
It would seem the Coast picked the splinter of Taylor out of its rear in 2010 after tying him to Nancy Pelosi and doesn’t intend to bring him back anytime soon.