Rep. Bennie Thompson wins Democratic nomination for U.S. House in Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two incumbent congressmen in Mississippi won party primaries Tuesday. Another advanced to a June 28 runoff.

Republican Rep. Trent Kelly defeated Mark D. Strauss in north Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District. Kelly won a 2015 special election to Congress after serving as district attorney for several counties in north Mississippi. He was endorsed in Tuesday’s primary by former President Donald Trump. Strauss has a picket fence near his home painted with slogans including “Trump Won” and “COVID tests are poison.”

On the Democratic side, Dianne Black won, defeating another first-time candidate, Hunter Avery. Black said she wants to expand access to health care and fight climate change.

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Mississippi’s lone Democrat in Washington, Rep. Bennie Thompson, defeated one primary opponent, Jerry Kerner.

Thompson is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and co-chairman of a committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Thompson has been in Congress since winning a 1993 special election. The 2nd District now encompasses most of western Mississippi and much of the metro Jackson area.

After Thompson voted Tuesday in Bolton, he spent the day campaigning in his district, which is now about 300 miles (483 kilometers) from north to south. The largely rural 2nd District expanded this year as state legislators redrew the four House districts to account for population changes in the past decade.

Thompson said in the days before the primary, he went to southwestern Mississippi counties that were added to the district, including Franklin County, where he taught in 1968-69. He said he was happy to see some of his former students.

“They said, ‘Now we finally have a congressperson we can vote for who understands support for public education, who understands support for Social Security, who understands support for veterans,” Thompson told The Associated Press.

Thompson said he returns to Washington on Wednesday to continue preparing for Thursday night’s televised hearings of the Jan. 6 investigative committee.

On the Republican side in the 2nd District, military veteran Brian Flowers advanced to a June 28 runoff. Flowers lost to Thompson in 2020 and now says Thompson “is trying to intimidate American patriots” by investigating the activities of Jan. 6, 2021.

The other 2nd District Republican primary candidates are Michael Carson, a diesel mechanic who cites former President Ronald Reagan as a role model; Ronald Eller, a retired Army captain who is campaigning on free enterprise and limited government; and Stanford Johnson, a truck driver who advocates congressional term limits.

Rep. Michael Guest was in a race with former Navy pilot Michael Cassidy in a three-person Republican primary in central Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District.
Guest was first elected to Congress in 2018 after serving as a district attorney in Rankin and Madison counties. He has campaigned on supporting border security and gun rights. Cassidy criticizes Guest for being in the minority of Republicans who voted to create an outside commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — a group that would have been separate from the congressional committee now conducting the investigation.

Also in the 3rd District Republican primary is Thomas B. Griffin, a business owner who says he wants to put Christian values into schools. No Democratic primary is being held because Shuwaski A. Young was unopposed for the nomination. He will be on the general election ballot.

Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo is headed to a runoff in south Mississippi’s 4th District. Two other candidates, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell and retired banker Clay Wagner, were in the race for the second spot on the June 28 ballot. Palazzo is a military veteran who was first elected to Congress when he defeated a Democratic incumbent in 2010. This year, he faced his largest-ever field of challengers, with six other candidates in the GOP primary.

A 2021 report by the office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” Palazzo had abused his office by misspending campaign funds, doing favors for his brother, and enlisting staff for political and personal errands. Palazzo declined to fully participate in the investigation, but his spokeswoman at the time, Colleen Kennedy, said it was based on “false allegations” made by an opponent in a previous primary.

A Palazzo campaign news release said the congressman was returning to Washington on Tuesday after he voted in Biloxi.

“It’s an honor to serve south Mississippi, and it’s something I do not take for granted,” Palazzo said in a statement late Tuesday. “I’m grateful for our supporters and volunteers who worked hard in this election and who will work hard to help us over the next three weeks. We now turn our attention to the run-off, and we will not be out-worked. We will continue talking to voters about what we’ve been able to accomplish and our plans for promoting policies to restore economic growth, secure our borders, and keep Americans safe.”

Challenging Palazzo for the Republican nomination were Carl Boyanton, a former produce business owner who lost to Palazzo in the 2020 GOP primary and filed the complaint that prompted the ethics investigation of the congressman; Raymond N. Brooks, who has been a Gulfport police officer and says he wants to strengthen border security; Ezell, who is also campaigning on border security; Kidron Peterson, a machinist who says he wants to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.; Wagner, who says he wants to limit taxation and regulation; and state Sen. Brice Wiggins, who is campaigning on border security and has worked to expand access to early childhood education programs.

In the Democratic primary, Johnny L. DuPree defeated David Sellers. DuPree is a former Hattiesburg mayor and was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2011. Sellers is a minister who says he wants to increase the minimum wage and end mass incarceration.


A Libertarian candidate, Alden Patrick Young, will be on the 4th District ballot in November.