MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — Former Democratic Mississippi congressman Gene Taylor will stay on the Republican primary ballot opposing incumbent U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo.
After a closed meeting of the state Republican executive committee yesterday, Chairman Joe Nosef said members voted 25-10 to certify Taylor’s place on the June 3 ballot.
Taylor was elected to the U.S. House as a Democrat in 1989 and was defeated by Palazzo in 2010.
Some committee members, led by Sue Bush, of Hattiesburg, wanted to bar Taylor from running in south Mississippi’s 4th District as a Republican, saying they don’t find his party conversion sincere.
“For 21 years we’ve been fighting Gene Taylor as a Democrat in Washington, and I just felt we had to express our opinion,” Bush said after the meeting in Jackson.
Taylor told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he was never formally notified that his place on the ballot could be in jeopardy.
“We run our own race and we make that decision in south Mississippi,” Taylor said. “My loyalty, as I said last Friday, is going to be to our nation and state first.”
Taylor said he voted in the Republican primary in the 2011 state elections and made donations to two Republican candidates for Congress in 2012.
Nosef said Republican candidates and primary voters must pledge to support the eventual nominee, but their past as Democrats can’t be held against them.
“I think people voted to certify him not because people were happy about it, but because they felt like they were bound to do it,” he said of Taylor.
Nosef said he couldn’t think of any case where Mississippi Republicans had thrown a candidate off the ballot.
In 2007, the Mississippi Democratic executive committee sought to remove longtime Insurance Commissioner George Dale from the party primary ballot because he had publicly supported Republican President George W. Bush for re-election. A judge reversed the decision and put Dale back on the ballot, but Dale lost the primary and the job he’d held for 32 years.
Nosef said Republicans decided to avoid a court fight. “The people of the 4th District at the ballot box are going to sort this out,” he said.
Bush said she was concerned that Taylor would organize Democrats to vote in the Republican primary.
Hunter Lipscomb, Palazzo’s campaign manager, echoed those concerns.
“It’s no surprise our local Republican Party is alarmed by the idea of Taylor’s overnight conversion to the GOP,” Lipscomb said in a statement. “They have every right to question his sudden switch of parties as a purely political stunt designed only help him return to Washington.”
Also on the Republican ballot in the 4th District U.S. House race are Tom Carter of Carriere, Tavish Kelly of Picayune, and Ron Vincent of Hattiesburg. Democrats running in the 4th District are Trish Causey of Ocean Springs and Matt Moore of Biloxi. Moore ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2012.
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