U.S. House District 3 candidate Michael Guest talks to his supporters after speaking at the Neshoba County Fair Wednesday, August 1, 2018. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Two of Mississippi’s four incumbent U.S. House members on Tuesday were forced into June 28 runoffs with challengers.

Neither Michael Guest, representing the 3rd Congressional District based in central Mississippi, nor Steven Palazzo, representing south Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, could garner a majority in the Republican Party needed to avoid the runoff.

While it was expected that Palazzo would face a tough re-election campaign in a six-candidate primary field, Guest’s troubles were more surprising.

Based on late but incomplete results, it appeared Guest will finish second in the three-candidate field. Michael Cassidy, a former Navy pilot who now lives in Meridian, was leading with 47.8% of the vote compared to 46.6% for Guest.

Guest, a former district attorney representing Rankin and Madison counties in suburban Jackson, is seeking his third two-year term.

The upstart Cassidy ran an aggressive campaign, loaning himself more than $200,000 to challenge Guest. He especially focused his campaign on the fact that Guest was the only member of Mississippi’s Republican congressional delegation to vote in favor of creating a special congressional commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. That attack was carried out by those trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

Cassidy’s campaign has been aided by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign data specialist, who has been a leading voice in trying to perpetuate the myth that Trump won the election.

Cassidy held his own in Guest’s home turf in the Jackson metro area and dominated the vote count in the Meridian area and in many rural counties on the eastern side of the district.

In south Mississippi, Palazzo was leading Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell 31.6% to 25.2% in late — but also incomplete — results.

Palazzo, a former state House member who first was elected to the U.S. House in 2010, was believed to be vulnerable because of an ethics investigation over accusations he spent campaign funds on personal expenses. Palazzo has repaid some funds to his campaign and it appears that Palazzo will survive the investigation, though it is far from a given that he will succeed in his reelection effort.

Palazzo was the top vote-getter in most of the counties in the district, but not by wide enough margins to avoid the runoff.

Mississippi’s other two incumbents — Democrat Bennie Thompson of the 2nd District and Republican Trent Kelly of the 1st District — won by comfortable margins.

Thompson, the chair of the Jan. 6 Commission, won with 96% of the vote, while Kelly, a former district attorney in northeast Mississippi, garnered 90% of the vote.

All winners of this summer’s party primaries will face opposition in the November general election. The 2nd District, which includes much of the Jackson area and nearly all of the western side of the state along the Mississippi River, is viewed as a safe Democratic district while the other three are viewed as safe for Republicans.

It appears the Republican primary in the 2nd District will head to a runoff between Brian Flowers and Ronald Elder.

Diane Black was an easy winner of a two-candidate field in the 1st District Democratic primary, while Democrat Shuwaski Young ran unopposed in the 3rd. Johnny DuPree, a former Hattiesburg mayor and former candidate for governor and secretary of state, handily won a two-candidate race in the Democratic primary in the 4th District.

Primary runoff elections will be held June 28. The general election, pitting primary winners against one another, will be held on Nov. 8.


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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.