Mississippi GOP Cautious on Palazzo

Mississippi Republicans have good things to say about Rep. Steven Palazzo: He’s a genuinely nice guy, he’s on the right committees, he’s building his influence as a member of the GOP whip team, and he makes the right votes for his district.

But increasingly in Magnolia State political circles, there are two words used to describe the freshman Member: in trouble.

He went through two chiefs of staff before hiring his current one during the summer. A raucous house party arranged by Palazzo staffers in October led to the dismissal of his scheduler and a legislative correspondent. And on Thursday, Roll Call reported that in complying with House ethics rules, Palazzo may have bumped up against Mississippi law when he moved his certified public accounting firm to his wife’s name.

“He’s starting to look a little toxic,” a Republican strategist deeply familiar with Mississippi politics said. “This is another straw — I don’t know if it breaks the camel’s back, but it has the potential to create increasing interest in a primary challenge.”

The source said the question is whether the drumbeat of stories and innuendo in the state — and the possibility that there might be more to come — is enough to push a credible challenger to pull the trigger before the qualifying deadline of Jan. 13.

Who might that be? Republican state Sen. Michael Watson has been eyeing the seat for a long time, people familiar with state politics said. Also mentioned is state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), but he told Roll Call definitively he is not running for Palazzo’s seat.

Roll Call
12/5/11