Palazzo campaigns in Picayune

Published 12:30 am Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fourth District Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) of Biloxi in 2010 did what many political observers thought was impossible, he unseated 20-year Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis.

Taylor, evidently enjoying a comfortable retirement in Bay St. Louis working on his boat, indicated to supporters before the filing deadline Jan. 13 that he would not challenge Palazzo.

Palazzo, a Desert Storm veteran, was in Picayune on Friday campaigning for his second term. Members of the U.S. House have to stand for re-election every two years.

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Palazzo faces no serious challengers. Besides Taylor refusing to run, some had hoped State Sen. Michael Watson or attorney Brian Sanderson would get in the race, but they chose not to run because of the high favorability rating that Palazzo holds.

Sources close to the Palazzo campaign has told the Item that polls showed he possessed an 80 percent favorability rating in the district. The polls were conducted by Palazzo’s prospective opponents, not by the Palazzo campaign.

In the March 13 first Republican Primary, Palazzo faces Ron Vincent, a retired engineer and Tea Party activist from Hattiesburg, and Cindy Burleson, also from Hattiesburg, who is CEO of the Sibling Society and is working on her doctorate at Southern. Neither one is given much of a chance of unseating Palazzo.

When Palazzo gets through the March 13 primary, he will face either Democrat Jason Vitosky or Michael Harrington. Vitosky is a computer expert who formerly attended Tulane, studying engineering.

Harrington, from Hattiesburg, is a service manager who said he is running “because I am fed up with the Washington gridlock.”

Either Vitosky or Harrington will meet Palazzo on Nov. 6, the Presidential election date, and Ron Williams, a Moss Point businessman, who formerly ran in the governor’s race as a Republican, also will be on the congressional Nov. 6 ballot as a Libertarian.

Vincent campaigned in Picayune on Jan. 6, alleging the Tea Party groups in South Mississippi had abandoned Palazzo because of his votes and some ethical lapses in his office. “We want to send some intelligent adults up there and not a bunch of clowns,” Vincent told the Item then.

He charged that Palazzo had voted for raising the debt ceiling, for continuing resolutions rather than to cut spending and for the defense authorization bill that contained a section allowing the government to arrest a U.S. citizen, branded a terrorist, and hold the citizen indefinitely, even in “Gitmo.”

Palazzo has struck a conservative tone, and defends his votes.

Palazzo told the AP’s Jeff Amy, “We’ve had some organizational challenges, but I did exactly what South Mississippi sent me up there to do. I kept their values and principles and what they wanted me to do, and that’s to get up there and fight and protect Mississippians from the destructive policies of Barack Obama.”

Palazzo’s campaign is supposed to get a February boost when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) will join Palazzo in Gulfport in efforts to raise some campaign cash.

Asked to respond to Vincent’s charges during a break in the handshaking at PJ’s on Friday, Palazzo struck an optimistic note, “Everywhere we go, in Pearl River County, the Coast, and the northern part of my district, people tell me what a good job we are doing, and to continue the fight for our values.”

He added, “The people of Mississippi did not send me to Washington to shut down the government, to default on our national debt. They sent me there to get reasonable spending cuts, to balance the budget,  and to guard our economic and national security, and every vote I have taken does just that.”

As to his vote on the defense authorization bill, Palazzo said he voted for it because it funds the armed services and that the sections referred to do not exempt American citizens from due process. “It has been reviewed by legal experts and that is our interpretation of the law,” he said.

As to the debt ceiling, Palazzo said, “There has been decades of mismanagement by both parties. But the one thing we talk about, when we are talking about governing responsibly, is that you pay your debts; this is not new spending. We are paying our debts that has already been incurred, and you would expect any business to pay its debts, and that is what we are doing.”

He said the Senate under Reid has rejected most of the House’s legislation aimed at getting the economy back on track and reducing unemployment, but he said he and other conservatives in Washington, will keep on trying. “We won’t roll over and play dead,” he added.

“We (the Republicans) are only 50 percent of one-third of the government,” he said.

He said his greatest disappointment when he got to Washington was watching legislators put selfish political interests above the interests of the country. “I knew it existed, because I have been in politics before, but to actually see it take place on a national level is disappointing,” said Palazzo.

Palazzo is in his first term. He serves as chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, which sets funding for NASA, which  involves funding for Stennis. He is also assistant whip. He holds the distinction of being the only member of Congress who is an active member of the National Guard as a sergeant.