Rep. Steven Palazzo lost the Republican primary runoff in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District after being dogged by ethics questions about campaign spending.
Mike Ezell, sheriff of Jackson County, was the projected winner in Tuesday’s two-person race and is expected to win the seat this fall in the deep-red state.
The race was called about an hour after the polls closed.
With 95% of the vote reported, Mr. Ezell held a 53.8% to 46.2% lead over Mr. Palazzo, who has represented the district, which includes the Mississippi Gulf Coast, since 2011.
The loss was directly tied to an Office of Congressional Ethics report that said Mr. Palazzo tapped into campaign funds to pay himself and his then-wife nearly $200,000. The report also said he used the money to improve a riverfront home that he planned to sell.
Mr. Palazzo denied the allegations, but blood was in the water. Six Republicans challenged him in the GOP primary earlier this month.
Another political warning sign came when Mr. Palazzo failed to capture more than the needed 50% of the vote to win the primary outright, a poor showing for an incumbent. He was forced into a two-person runoff with Mr. Ezell.
Things got worse for the incumbent when all five of his former primary rivals endorsed Mr. Ezell in the runoff.
Mr. Palazzo also had been criticized for having a limited presence in the district.