Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo failed to garner enough votes to block out all six challengers in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District primary on Tuesday, sending the election to a run-off later this month.
Palazzo, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2011, led with 32% of the vote. His run-off challenger has yet to be determined as Mike Ezell had garnered 24% of the vote, just one percentage point ahead of Clay Wagner with 94% of the precincts reporting on Tuesday night.
Palazzo will face off against the eventual second-place finisher in a June 28 runoff after all candidates failed to earn 50% of the vote.
The field of challengers to Palazzo also included businessman Carl Boyanton and State Sen. Brice Wiggins. Candidates Raymond Brooks and Kidron Peterson also threw their hats in the ring.
Palazzo campaigned to hold his seat amid allegations that he abused his office through misspending campaign funds, doing favors for his brother, and enlisting staff for political and personal errands.
The accusations stem from a 2021 report by the Office of Congressional Ethics which said it found “substantial reason to believe” the congressman misused his office.
The watchdog recommended the House Committee on Ethics investigate the allegations further, saying Palazzo “may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”
At the time, then-spokesperson Colleen Kennedy said the report was based on politically motivated “false allegations,” according to the Associated Press.
The incumbent lawmaker has also faced growing criticism over his lack of presence both in Congress and candidate forums on the campaign trail.
While Palazzo signed onto a 2020 lawsuit challenging proxy voting in the House, he has submitted at least seven letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informing that he would not be present to vote.
As of early May, conservative public policy organization Ripon Society found that Palazzo had voted by proxy at least 66 times.
With AP wires