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Two Ugly Republican Primaries— One In Mississippi And One In Arizona

Shady Freshmen Mike Ezell And Eli Crane Are In Trouble

Mississippi trio Boyanton, Ezell, McGill

Anchored in Hattiesburg and Gulfport. Mississippi’s 4th congressional district is perfectly gerrymandered to elect Republicans. The partisan lean is a whopping R+42, the reddest district in the state. The PVI is R+22 and Trump breezed to a 68% win against Biden there. Therevwere still right-wing Democrats being elected to Congress there as recently as 2008. In 2010, though, that ended when Steve Palazzo beat Blue Dog Gene Taylor (who soon after quit the Democratic Party and officially joined the GOP, as most Blue Dogs eventually do).

The only accountability in a gerrymandered district like MS-04 is through a primary— and in 2022, Jackson County Trumpist Sheriff Mike Ezell beat the corrupt Palazzo— who was under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for using campaign funds for personal expenses— in a primary runoff. Neither had gotten 50% in the first round, though Palazzo led by 6.5 points in the very low turnout 7-man race. The June runoff garnered far more interest and Ezell ousted Palazzo 30,941 (53.7%) to 26.709 (46.3%).

Ironically, Ezell is facing the same kind of corruption charges from Carl Boyanton, a rich MAGAt self-funder ($509,500 so far), who lost in 2020 and 2022, challenging him this cycle. Asked why he’s running, Boyanton told the local Clarion Ledger that “Ezell lied to us. He campaigned on not voting for Kevin McCarthy and then voted for him 16 times. He campaigned on cutting spending then voted for the debt ceiling increase of $2 trillion and counting. He voted against Marjorie Taylor Greene's amendment that would reinstate pilots that refused the COVID vaccine. Not Mississippi values.” Watch this new Boyanton add, that looks like it could end Ezell’s congressional career:

An obvious Freedom Caucus kind of guy— and a college drop out— when asked what issues were important to him, he immediately responded “The border. I I would push to use the budget to make this administration close the border. Republicans voted with Democrats on every budget bill to keep funding the government. They had five to six times last year they could have used the budget to make Biden close the border. The budget: I will push to have us go to zero-base budgeting where everything in the budget has to be reauthorized. This alone could balance our budget. Crime: I would work to support our law enforcement and firefighters by trying to take the money we are wasting on illegal immigrants and find a way to augment their pay. They put their lives on the line for us every day for very little money. Veterans: One of my main focuses will be helping our heroes who are being neglected right now. The VA has to be revamped and the money has to be used on our veterans and not the administration.”

The 3rd candidate in the race, Michael McGill, who hasn’t raised enough money to finance a serious campaign, might throw the decision into a runoff. McGill, a military veteran, sounds like a novice who doesn’t appear to understand that running for office is about the voters, not about himself. When pushed, he sounds like he might be trying to appeal to independents and conservative Democrats as well as Republicans. (You can watch his interview by clicking on the link to his name above.)

The Arizona race could turn out to be more interesting for two reasons— 1- Crane is a drooling MAGAt from the Freedom Caucus and 2- it’s possible that if the primary gets bloody enough a Democrat could win— although probably not. AZ-02 was a red-leaning district that had elected worthless Blue Dog Tom O’Halleran. The legislature rigged the boundaries to bring it from a partisan lean of R+6 to R+15. So maybe just one reason it could be more interesting: we’ll stick with Crane is a drooling MAGAt. There's no way to take Crane on from the right and I can't see Smith pretending to be a centrist, so I'll be eager to see how he goes after the Shut Down The Government-spewing Crane, who has already challenged McCarthy to come to the district and debate him.

Former Yavapai County supervisor Jack Smith is taking him on in the primary. This looks like it may be another Kevin McCarthy-related challenge. Crane was one of the Gaetz 8 who voted to oust him as speaker. McCarthy has an immense amount of money in his leadership PAC to finance challenges to the Republicans who ended his career.

The district is huge, taking up most of northern and eastern Arizona. A plurality of voters live in Yavapai County, with significant numbers in Pinal, Coconini, Navajo, Apache and Gila counties. Coconino (Flagstaff) and Apache are very blue. Navajo and Pinal are kind of swingy. Yavapai and Gila are red hellholes.

Laura Gersony reported that “Smith served on the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors until 2019 when he was tapped by Trump to serve as the Arizona state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program. Since then, he has worked for Arizona's Department of Administration and Yavapai College.”

Although several Democrats have filed paperwork to run, it looks likely that the candidate with be former Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. As of the end of last year, he had already brought in around $122,000.

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