WASHINGTON (AP) – Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo is headed to a runoff in south Mississippi’s 4th District. Two other candidates, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell and retired banker Clay Wagner, were in the race for the second spot on the June 28 ballot.

Palazzo is a military veteran who was first elected to Congress when he defeated a Democratic incumbent in 2010. This year, he faced his largest-ever field of challengers, with six other candidates in the GOP primary.

A 2021 report by the office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” Palazzo had abused his office by misspending campaign funds, doing favors for his brother, and enlisting staff for political and personal errands. Palazzo declined to fully participate in the investigation, but his spokeswoman at the time, Colleen Kennedy, said the it was based on “false allegations” made by an opponent in a previous primary.

A Palazzo campaign news release said the congressman was returning to Washington on Tuesday after he voted in Biloxi.

“It’s an honor to serve south Mississippi, and it’s something I do not take for granted,” Palazzo said in a statement late Tuesday. “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.”

Challenging Palazzo for the Republican nomination were Carl Boyanton, a former produce business owner who lost to Palazzo in the 2020 GOP primary and filed the complaint that prompted the ethics investigation of the congressman; Raymond N. Brooks, who has been a Gulfport police officer and says he wants to strengthen border security; Ezell, who is also campaigning on border security; Kidron Peterson, a machinist who says he wants to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.; Wagner, who says he wants to limit taxation and regulation; and state Sen. Brice Wiggins, who is campaigning on border security and has worked to expand access to early childhood education programs.

In the Democratic primary, Johnny L. DuPree defeated David Sellers. DuPree is a former Hattiesburg mayor and was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2011. Sellers is a minister who says he wants to increase the minimum wage and end mass incarceration.

A Libertarian candidate, Alden Patrick Young, will be on the 4th District ballot in November.

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