published Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

House incumbents Bennie Thompson, Gregg Harper win Mississippi primaries

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi congressmen Bennie Thompson and Gregg Harper cruised to victory Tuesday evening in their party primaries.

Thompson, a Democrat from Bolton, won his party's nomination in the 2nd District. Harper, from Pearl, won the Republican primary in the 3rd District.

While party primaries were taking place in all four of Mississippi's U.S. House districts, Tuesday's headline matchup was in south Mississippi's 4th Congressional District, where the Republican primary featured U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo and four challengers, including former U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor.

Taylor, of Bay St. Louis, who won election to Congress 11 times as a Democrat, filed to run as a Republican in hopes of taking back the seat he lost to Palazzo, of Biloxi, in 2010.

Three other candidates in the race meant a runoff was possible. They included Tom Carter, a 48-year-old defense contractor from Carriere; 73-year-old Ron Vincent of Hattiesburg, who lost the 2012 Republican primary to Palazzo; and 24-year-old Tavish Kelly of Picayune.

Palazzo raised $678,000, the most in the race, and campaigned on a platform of continued opposition to President Barack Obama. The 44-year-old incumbent pointedly questioned the sincerity of the 60-year-old Taylor's conversion to the GOP, in an appeal to the party purity of a traditionally small primary electorate.

Taylor, who raised $251,000, hammered Palazzo over his 2012 vote to approve the Biggert-Waters flood insurance law, under which the Federal Emergency Management Agency proposed expensive rate increases. Palazzo said he and other lawmakers didn't foresee what FEMA would propose, and counted his March vote to water down the changes as his top achievement in the last two years.

Taylor also said Palazzo didn't do enough to protect the district's military bases and criticized him for balking at supporting money to pay flood insurance claims following 2012's Superstorm Sandy. Taylor said the Sandy vote would hurt Palazzo's ability to seek hurricane aid for the Mississippi coast in the future. Palazzo disputed that, though, saying even as one of the House's more conservative members, he could still work with others.

In the 4th District's Democratic primary, Trish Causey of Ocean Springs faces 2012 Democratic nominee Matt Moore of Gulfport. The Republican and Democratic winners will face independent candidates Cindy Burleson and Ed Reich, Libertarian Joey Robinson and Reform Party member Eli "Sarge" Jackson in the Nov. 4 general election.

In the 3rd District, which crosses all or parts of 24 counties stretching from Starkville southwest to Natchez, Harper defeated 68-year-old Quitman resident Hardy Caraway in the Republican primary. On the Democratic side, teacher Jim Liljeberg of Bay Springs was running against Mendenhall lawyer Douglas MacArthur "Doug" Magee and Magnolia resident Dennis Quinn. Independent Roger Gerrard and Reform Party candidate Barbara Dale Washer will meet the Republican and Democratic nominees in the general election.

Longtime incumbent Thompson defeated Damien Fairconetue of Clinton in the Democratic primary in the 2nd District, which includes the Mississippi Delta, parts of Jackson and southwest Mississippi. Thompson will face independent Troy Ray and the Reform Party's Shelley Shoemake on Nov. 4.

Two-term Republican incumbent Alan Nunnelee faced no primary challenge in north Mississippi's 1st Congressional District. Rex Weathers of Glen and Ron Dickey of Horn Lake were contending for the Democratic nomination. Nunnelee and the Democratic nominee will face Libertarian Danny Bedwell of Columbus and the Reform Party's Lajena Walley in the general election.

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