Close this search box.

Mike Ezell Defeats Longtime U.S. House Rep. Steven Palazzo in GOP Runoff

a photo of Mike Ezell pointing a finger to the sky on a bright day
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell defeated longtime incumbent U.S. House Rep. Steven Palazzo in the June 28, 2022, Republican primary runoff in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District. Photo courtesy Ezell campaign

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell has defeated longtime U.S. House Rep. Steven Palazzo in the Republican primary runoff for Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District. As the new GOP nominee, Ezell will run against Democrat Johnny DuPree and Libertarian Alden Johnson in the Nov. 8 general election.

With more than 83% of the vote in by 9 p.m., Ezell led Palazzo 53.1%-46.9%, the Associated Press reported.

On his campaign website, Ezell touts his “40 years of experience as a law enforcement officer fighting to keep our streets safe” as evidence that he is “committed to our community” in South Mississippi. The Pascagoula native also describes himself as a “strong Christian conservative” and devout Baptist. He first won election as Jackson County sheriff in 2014; before that, he served as chief of police in Ocean Springs.

Palazzo has held the seat since defeating longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Gene Taylor in the 2010 Tea Party wave. But after 12 years of winning re-election with little trouble, the incumbent’s fortunes tumbled in March 2021 after a non-partisan congressional ethics board said it had found “substantial evidence” Palazzo may have repeatedly violated federal law.

A congressional ethics probe is ongoing into allegations Palazzo misused campaign funds and used his office for campaign purposes and to do favors for a family member. He has long denied the allegations.

During his 12 years in office, Palazzo refused to debate any Republican or Democratic opponents. That changed after he failed to win outright in the June 7 Republican primary and was forced to compete in a runoff for the first time in his career; he debated Ezell last week. The incumbent has not held an in-person town hall for voters to ask questions since 2013, earning him the nickname “No Show Palazzo” among some voters.

“I show up for Mississippi, I deliver for Mississippi, and Mississippians aren’t dumb,” he told SuperTalk’s Paul Gallo on June 20. “My opponents think South Mississippians are dumb, but they’re not. They know I’m working hard for them, and they also know I can’t be everywhere in the district all the time because two-to-three weeks out of the month they hired me to go to Washington, D.C., to fight the liberal, secular agenda.”

A photo of Steven palazzo
U.S. House Rep. Steven Palazzo lost his seat in the June 28, 2022, Republican primary runoff after a non-partisan ethics probe raised questions about his conduct. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Palazzo also claimed that his poor showing in the June 7 primary was not evidence that voters did not support him.

“People just didn’t turn out and vote,” he said. “That wasn’t a turnout vote against me. That was just low turnout and people effectively garnered certain support in certain areas.”

On his website, Ezell calls himself “a long-time supporter of President Trump” who “understands the importance of putting America first.” He says he wants to “support law enforcement”; “work to kill any legislation aimed at taking away our right to bear arms”; “secure our border” and “finish the wall to keep our communities safe”; and “put a stop to taxpayer-funded abortions.”

On Nov. 8, 2022, voters in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District will choose between Republican Ezell, Democrat Johnny DuPree and Libertarian Alden Johnson.

You can learn more about Johnson’s view on the issues with his responses to MFP’s candidate questionnaire. Neither DuPree nor Ezell have responded to the questionnaire.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.