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Mississippi lawmaker with ethics issues forced into GOP runoff

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FILE – Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., participates in a swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 19, 2020. 2022 Garcia is expected to advance through November with one of the Democrats as the top two in the race. Garcia rejected Arizona and Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for Biden and opposed the impeachment of President Donald Trump after the Capitol uprising. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

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U.S. Representative Steven Palazzo of Mississippi qualified for a Republican runoff on Tuesday after a congressional ethics watchdog raised questions about his campaign spending and he faced his biggest number of primary challengers.

In a strongly Democratic California, members of the Republican House faced off against arch-rivals in races that will help determine control of Congress. Districts will be among the country’s flagship races in November. Two of the House members are trying to overcome challenges with former President Donald Trump: one voted to support the former president’s impeachment after the U.S. Capitol uprising, while the other goes for it is opposite.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is competing with several other Republicans to try to win a new US House district in western Montana.

In Iowa, Republican state Sen. Zach Nunn won the GOP spot to face the state’s only Democratic House member, Rep. Cindy Axne, in a newly drawn district with a stronger tilt of the GOP.

A look at the top U.S. House races as polls close across the country:

MISSISSIPPI CONGRESSMAN WITH ETHICS ISSUES TO DEAL WITH TRIP

Republican U.S. Representative Steven Palazzo of Mississippi is heading for a June 28 runoff.

The congressman first elected in 2010 failed to win the GOP nomination on Tuesday, winning less than 50% of the vote.

His opponent will be either Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell, who also campaigns on border security, or Clay Wagner, a retired banker who says he wants to limit taxation and regulation.

A 2021 report from the Congressional Ethics Office found “substantial reason to believe” that Palazzo, a military veteran who sits on the Appropriations and Homeland Security committees, abused his office by spending campaign funds. , doing favors for his brother and enlisting personnel for politics and personal errands. His spokeswoman at the time, Colleen Kennedy, said the investigation was based on politically motivated “false allegations”.

TRUMP FACTORS IN GOP RACES IN VERY DEMOCRATIC CALIFORNIA

Two Republican congressmen face Trump-related challenges, but for different reasons.

In a Democratic-leaning district in the state’s Central Valley agricultural belt, Republican Representative David Valadao puts out an independent streak while battling the GOP fallout for his vote to impeach Trump during the insurrection of the January 6. Republican Chris Mathys has made Valadao’s vote a centerpiece of his campaign to oust him.

In a Democratic-leaning neighborhood north of Los Angeles, three Democrats are vying for the chance to face Republican Rep. Mike Garcia, who won the seat in 2020. Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot who was endorsed by Trump in 2020, joined House Republicans who rejected electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania and opposed Trump’s impeachment after the Capitol uprising. Two other Republicans are also on the ballot.

California uses a first-two electoral format in which only the top two voters qualify for the November general election, regardless of party.

FORMER TRUMP CABINET MEMBER SEEKS RETURN TRIP TO WASHINGTON

Montana has gained a second congressional district this year thanks to its growing population, and Zinke, secretary of the Interior Department under Trump, is one of five Republicans in the primary ballot for the open seat.

Zinke’s rivals have drawn attention to his troubled tenure at the agency, which has been marred by multiple ethics investigations. An investigation determined that Zinke lied to an agency ethics officer about his ongoing involvement in a commercial real estate transaction in his hometown. He faced a smear campaign over his military service from his party’s far-right and questions about his residency following revelations that his wife declared a home in California as her primary residence.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, is widely seen as the de facto incumbent, as he twice won elections for the state’s other House seat before stepping down in 2017 to join the Trump administration.

His main opponents are former state senator Al “Doc” Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon and a hardline conservative who has tried to portray Zinke as a “liberal insider.” Three Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination: public health attorney Cora Neumann, Olympic rower and lawyer Monica Tranel and former state Rep. Tom Winter.

IOWA’S ONLY DEMOCRATIC HOUSE MEMBER FACES TOUGH FIGHT

A Republican state senator has captured the spot to take on Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne this fall in a newly drawn district that looks more pro-GOP.

Axne is the only Democrat in the Iowa delegation.

State Sen. Zach Nunn easily outpaced rivals Nicole Hasso, a financial services worker, and Gary Leffler, who works in the construction industry, to claim the GOP spot. Nunn, an Air Force pilot who has served in the Legislature since 2014 and worked to cut taxes, was the best known among the GOP candidates.

In previous elections, Axne was lifted by her strong support in the Des Moines area, even as she struggled in rural counties that typically lean Republican. The new district includes several southern Iowa counties known to be strongly pro-Republican, increasing pressure on Axne to increase its membership in Des Moines and its suburbs, pro-Democrats.

A REPUBLICAN MATCHUP FOR SOUTH DAKOTA’S SOLE HOUSE SEAT

Trump is also playing in the fight for South Dakota’s only House seat.

GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, faces a challenge from his political right from Republican state legislator Taffy Howard. She echoed Trump’s discredited claims of widespread voter fraud and criticized Johnson for voting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Johnson, however, maintained a large fundraising advantage. No Democrats are running, so the winner of the GOP primary is likely to take the seat.

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Associated Press writers Scott McFetridge in Des Moines, Iowa; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi; Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana; and Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, SD, contributed to this report.

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