U.S. House Rep. Michael Guest, a Republican who has served Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District since voters first elected him in 2018, must defend his seat in a runoff after placing second to new newcomer Michael Cassidy in Tuesday night’s GOP primary.
Guest is one of two Mississippi Republican incumbents whose opponents forced them into a runoff last night. But while 4th Congressional District Rep. Steven Palazzo’s lackluster showing followed an ethics scandal, Guest’s troubles came amid criticism over his 2021 vote in favor of a bipartisan investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection.
The incumbent “is a card-carrying member of the Establishment who voted to create the Jan 6th Commission,” Cassidy, who fashions himself as a Pro-Trump “America First” candidate, said in an April tweet. During the GOP primary campaign, Cassidy has focused on the incumbent’s vote for an investigation of the a Jan. 6 insurrection.
Guest’s Jan. 6 Record Mixed
In May 2021, Guest joined 35 other Republicans and all Democrats in voting for a bipartisan investigation of the Capitol attack, saying at the time that the country “needs answers to questions surrounding the events of Jan. 6.” That bill failed, however, after Republicans filibustered it in the Senate.
The U.S. House then established its own select committee to investigate the Capitol insurrection, which did not require the Senate’s input but earned significantly less Republican support. Guest voted against that committee, which Mississippi 2nd Congressional U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, now leads.
Amid criticism for his initial May 2021 vote, Guest claimed during an interview with conservative SuperTalk radio host Gerard Gibert the next month that he voted for the earlier commission because he wanted to probe whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shared any responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack.
“So I truly believe that, if you’re looking at an investigation, a key part of that investigation needs to be surrounding Speaker Pelosi,” the Republican incumbent said. “What was Speaker Pelosi’s role, and what by her being involved and having discussions, what is the level of blame that should be placed on her for what happened on Jan. 6?”
During a Jan. 6, 2021, rally just before the Capitol attack, defeated President Donald Trump repeated unsubstantiated claims that Democrats “stole” the election from him, urging thousands of supporters at a rally to “walk down to the Capitol.” Trump wanted to stop Congress from certifying then-President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.
“If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore,” the former president told him. Both during the attack and in subsequent court filings, Trump supporters who participated in the attack have cited his words as their motives. That same day, Guest joined Mississippi’s other two Republican congressmen, Steven Palazzo and Trent Kelly, in voting against certifying the results of the 2020 election.
In his bid to unseat Guest, Michael Cassidy, a former Navy fighter pilot from Lauderdale, Miss., has hired consultant Matt Braynard, a former Trump 2016 campaign staffer who helped bolster claims that Trump was the victim of a conspiracy to steal the election from him in 2020. Mississippi Today’s Bobby Harrison reported that Brayard has earned at least $190,000 testifying as a consultant about alleged “irregularities” in the 2020 election.
Cassidy Opposes Ukraine Aid
Neither Guest nor Cassidy earned the 50% of votes necessary on Tuesday to claim the nomination outright. With 99% of the vote counted, Cassidy leads Guest 47.5%-to-46.9%, or by almost 300 votes.
Cassidy has also criticized Guest’s vote to send military aid to Ukraine to support its war against Russia. Most members of both parties in the U.S. House voted to send aid to Urkaine in May with the exception of 57 Republicans.
In a statement today, Guest said he would be “working to earn” votes ahead of the runoff later this month “because we need PROVEN, conservative leadership with a real record of fighting for our values” in Washington, D.C.
“Thank you for your support in the election yesterday. It appears we are headed to a runoff on 6/28. I’ll be working to earn your vote because we need PROVEN, conservative leadership with a real record of fighting for our values—that’s the difference in the runoff election!
Cassidy said in a separate statement that he is “grateful to the people of Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District for giving me the most votes in the June 7th Republican Primary.”
“This is the first step in replacing our current congressman with someone who better represents out conservative Mississippi values,” he said. “I am calling on Mr. Guest to give the voters the opportunity to see us debate and so he can be held accountable for voting for the Democrats’ January 6th Commission, for voting for multiple omnibus spending bills that gave over a billion dollars to Planned Parenthood, and for giving $53 billion to Ukraine when American families are suffering.”
Republican challengers often accuse their incumbent opponents of voting to fund Planned Parenthood because the annual federal omnibus bill, while not naming Planned Parenthood directly, includes funds the agency can tap into through Title X or Medicaid.
However, the annual omnibus law’s Hyde Amendment prohibits those funds from being used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of a pregnant person. Most federal funds Planned Parenthood receives are for medical services like STD treatment, contraception and cancer screenings.
Guest and Palazzo are the first members of Congress from Mississippi forced into a runoff since 2014, when State Sen. Chris McDaniel ran against longtime U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.
All Mississippi primary runoffs are on June 28, 2022. The victor in Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District will go up against Democratic nominee Shuwaski Young in the Nov. 8 general election. You can read a questionnaire listing Young’s policies here. Neither Guest nor Cassidy have responded to a request to complete MFP’s questionnaire.