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Two GOP reps lost in primaries, but for very different reasons

Mississippi's Steven Palazzo and Illinois' Rodney Davis lost Republican primaries yesterday, but the differences between them tell an important story.


Headed into yesterday’s elections, only three House Republicans had lost primary races in the 2022 election cycle. Two more lost yesterday, but for very different reasons.

In Mississippi, for example, incumbent Rep. Steven Palazzo’s career was derailed by a series of ethics controversies. As NBC News reported, the GOP congressman lost his primary — by roughly seven points — to Mike Ezell, a longtime local sheriff and a county chair for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

At face value, Palazzo’s loss doesn’t tell us much about the larger national landscape: A congressman got caught up in some tough-to-explain ethics messes; he faced a credible rival who took advantage of the incumbent’s troubles; and he lost. The story out of Illinois, however, told a different kind of story. NBC News reported overnight:

Rep. Mary Miller defeated Rep. Rodney Davis in a House primary in Illinois after redistricting pitted two incumbent Republicans against each other, NBC News projected. With nearly all of the expected vote counted, Miller held a 15-point edge over Davis.

Due to post-census redistricting, there are a handful of member-vs.-member congressional primaries this year, and this was one of them: Newly redrawn district lines forced Miller and Davis to compete in the same 15th district.

On the surface, there was no obvious favorite. Indeed, by any fair measure, Davis has a track record of being a conservative Republican who voted with Trump roughly 90 percent of the time.

The GOP congressman, however, voted last year for a bipartisan plan to investigate the Jan. 6 attack — and for much of the right, that became an unforgivable misstep.

Trump not only endorsed Miller, he also traveled to Illinois this past weekend to hold a rally in support of her candidacy. The independent commission Davis voted to create never took shape, but his willingness to support the plan — negotiated by members of his own party — helped end his career.

As we’ve discussed, Miller has also condemned Davis for having voted to certify the results of the 2020 election, which further helps capture what’s happening in Republican politics in 2022.

As Miller advances to the general election, she does so with some baggage. At Trump’s rally, for example, the Illinois Republican credited the former president for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, calling it a “victory for white life.”

Her team insisted that she’d simply misread a prepared text — Miller apparently meant to say “right to life,” instead of “white life” — though it was hard not to notice that attendees to the event cheered the words they heard her say.

The same GOP congresswoman last year approvingly quoted Adolf Hitler, though she soon after apologized.

Miller is now likely to be re-elected to Congress.