- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 4, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Incumbent Republican Steven Palazzo was leading Tuesday in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District in his rematch with Democrat-turned-Republican Gene Taylor, with Palazzo aiming to avoid a runoff.

Meanwhile, congressmen Bennie Thompson and Gregg Harper cruised to victory in primaries.

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

Democrat Ron Dickey of Horn Lake defeated Rex Weathers of Glen in the 1st District Democratic primary, setting up a challenge to incumbent Republican Alan Nunnelee and others.

Matt Moore of Biloxi won the Democratic nomination in the 4th District. Douglas MacArthur “Doug” Magee of Mendenhall and Dennis Quinn of Magnolia went to a June 24 runoff in the 3rd District Democratic primary.



While party primaries were taking place in all four of Mississippi’s U.S. House districts, Tuesday’s headline matchup was in south Mississippi, where Palazzo and Taylor and three others sought the Republican nomination.

Palazzo stopped short of claiming an outright victory but said he thought his message of continued opposition to President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party resonated with voters.

“It appears that they want me to go up there and fight for them for another two years,” Palazzo said.

Taylor, though, said that there were reports of “significant irregularities” in Harrison County, where Taylor won 60 percent of the vote. He said he wouldn’t concede until those reports were sorted out.

“Because so many people worked so hard, I think I ought to at least take the time to pursue this and see if it puts me on the path for the runoff,” Taylor said.

Affidavit ballots, including those cast by people who didn’t have photo identification, must be sorted out before the vote becomes final.

Three other candidates in the race made a runoff possible. Tom Carter, a 48-year-old defense contractor from Carriere, ran a distant third. Farther behind were 73-year-old Ron Vincent of Hattiesburg, who lost the 2012 Republican primary to Palazzo; and 24-year-old Tavish Kelly of Picayune.

While Taylor easily won Palazzo’s home county of Harrison and his own home in Hancock County, Palazzo won by wide margins in most inland counties. Taylor said he thought Palazzo’s financial advantage - he raised $678,000 to Taylor’s $251,000 - showed in those regions.

“Some of the places that we thought we had turned around from four years ago, apparently we didn’t,” Taylor said.

Palazzo pointedly questioned the sincerity of the 60-year-old Taylor’s conversion to the GOP. Taylor hammered Palazzo over his 2012 vote to approve flood insurance changes, under which the Federal Emergency Management Agency proposed rate increases. Palazzo counted his March vote to water down changes as his top achievement in the last two years.

In the 4th District’s Democratic primary, Moore, the 2012 Democratic nominee, beat Trish Causey of Ocean Springs. Moore and the Republican winner 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 eliminated from the race against Magee, a Mendenhall lawyer and Quinn, a Magnolia resident. Independent Roger Gerrard and Reform Party candidate Barbara Dale Washer will meet Harper and the Democratic nominee 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. He will face Dickey, Libertarian Danny Bedwell of Columbus and the Reform Party’s Lajena Walley in the general election.

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy

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